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The New Small: How a New Breed of Small Businesses Is Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technologies

Phil Simon

Author’s Bio

Phil Simon is the author of The New Small (Motion, 2010), Why New Systems Fail (Cengage, 2010), and The Next Wave of Technologies (John Wiley & Sons, 2010). He consults companies on how to optimize their use of technology. While not consulting, Phil speaks about emerging trends and technologies. He also writes for a number of technology-oriented media outlets. He received a BS in policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University and a master’s in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University. To find out more about Phil or read his blog, visit one of his web sites:

Why readers should buy your book and what they will get out of it after reading it?

A new breed of small businesses is using emerging technologies to do things simply not possible even five years ago. Featuring 11 profiles from a wide array of industries, The New Small shows how small business can do things simply impossible even five years ago.

Why did you write this book?

In short, it became obvious to me in 2010 that starting your own small business was easier than even. What’s more, existing small businesses were consistently failing to take advantage of key emerging technologies. I wanted to write a book that could show them the light.

In May of this year, I was on an edition of The New York Times’ TechTalk Podcast. I discussed my second book, The Next Wave of Technologies. At the end of the show, the host asked me, “What’s next? Another book?”

I responded with something along the lines of, “I can’t imagine doing another one but, knowing me, I’ll probably do it again. It’s kind of like a woman having a child. Immediately afterward, she can’t even imagine repeating the experience. After a few years, though, the kid is kind of cute and you want another one.”

Of course, having written two other books, I didn’t just want to write a third one willy-nilly. Any time that you’re writing a non-fiction book, you have to ask yourself two key questions:

  • Who’s going to buy the book?
  • What are they going to do with the information?

Writing a book that doesn’t answers these two questions in a compelling way is probably a waste of time.

My blog and two prior books are, in a nutshell, about the intersection of people, technology, and business. Those three subjects are never far from my mind. I tend to see everything through those lenses.

As 2010 progressed, I had noticed a few interesting things:

  • Today, many people begin working for themselves almost involuntarily. They’d like a full-time job but can’t find one.
  • From a technology standpoint, it’s easier than ever to set up your own shop. At the same time, though, many small business owners and employees were too busy to see the amazing possibilities of mobility, social media, and other emerging technologies.
  • Even people who can get “proper” jobs are increasingly doing their own thing. Perhaps they used to work in traditional corporate settings. Maybe they never wanted to work for “the man.” In any event, new businesses
  • Most economists will tell you that the vast majority of job growth in this country will come from small businesses, not from big companies trying to get bigger.

Influenced by books such as Linchpin by Seth Godin, I began to think about where the good jobs could be found—i.e., the ones with some degree of job security and actual interesting work. Were they likely to be found in companies with thousands of employees? Probably not. I thought about my own situation, as a very small business owner. I am completely indispensable to my own company (for obvious reasons) and most days are an adventure. Of course, this isn’t for everyone. But, as mentioned before, it’s much easier to start your own business these days. While it can be stressful relying upon yourself for a paycheck, the personal and financial rewards are nothing like what you can receive working in a large organization.

A few weeks after that podcast, I had my “childbearing” moment: Why not write a book that addressed these very issues?

So I did.

I started writing what would ultimately become my third book: The New Small: How a New Breed of Small Businesses is Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technologies. It is about how small businesses are using cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), open source, mobility, and social networks to compete with larger organizations. In the process, “the little guys” are creating much more meaningful jobs.

So, what happened on the technology front?

When I told people what I was writing about, many of them asked me a simple question: What has changed? In short, many things. Broadband exploded. Storage costs plummeted. Freemium took off as a business model, allowing companies of all sizes to date before they get married. A massive wave of innovation occurred. Other tech events and trends made the New Small possible. Factor in a drop in job security and a desire for people to do their own thing. Brass tacks: It’s suddenly it’s hip to start your own company.

Relative to even five years ago, these companies are:

  • Using more technology
  • Using existing technology to do more things
  • In some cases, using the same amount of technology–but smarter

All of these things are happening right now.

One of major the themes of the books is collaboration. The New Small certainly uses collaborative tools to a much greater extent than many large organizations currently do. Many big companies can’t get out of the way of themselves. They have too much technology but it no longer meets their needs—if it ever did. I’d probably say that they use fewer tools, but they use the ones that they have much more efficiently than lumbering behemoths.

Many small companies as well as stuck in their ruts; they refuse to embrace video conferencing technology, wikis, social media, microblogging, and a host of other tools that allow people to work together—irrespective of location.

Beyond Technology

Forget the advances in technology for a moment and how the costs of starting a business have plummeted more than 1,000 fold over the last twelve years. Technology represents just part of the book. I have a master’s in labor relations and am usually thinking about the labor market trends and how they affect individual companies and workers. Think about what’s happening across the country today.

The New Small is not just a book for existing small business owners. I also wrote it for budding entrepreneurs. Long story short: You can be your own boss now. You don’t have to for the economy to turn around and a big company to hire you. You can create your own job with a relatively inconsequential amount of money. While the book was just released, more than a few people have told me that it’s an inspirational text.

I am very well of the fact that most technology books are dry. This one isn’t. I profile eleven small businesses in different industries doing amazing things. I am including a dentist, a seafood restaurant, a voiceover company, a law firm, an iPad case maker, and a bunch of others. Why? I love the way that Malcolm Gladwell tells stories and weaves them all together, finding common themes. I have endeavored to do the same.

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2 Responses to “The New Small: How a New Breed of Small Businesses Is Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technologies”


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Phil Simon, ShoeStringVenture. ShoeStringVenture said: The New Small: How a New Breed of Small Businesses Is Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technologies [...]

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Phil Simon, The New Small. The New Small said: The Shoestring Venture Startup Blog ran a little piece of mine…. [...]

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