Just a tip to ‘big’ business people who want to sell their services to me: we don’t describe ourselves as SMEs. If someone asks me what I do, I don’t say I am an ‘SME’ let alone say I am a ‘small’ business owner. I say I have my own gig going on. I am one of the many that drive the Australian economy.

We create jobs. We keep customers and clients satisfied. We collectively deliver as big an impact to the Australian economy as any big business does (and we pay onshore tax). And we do not describe ourselves as small nor do we talk or say we are.

I can understand the need for easy labels. Big, small, medium, all of these words help us categorise and we use them as shorthand to get our points across. After all, SmartCompany is very much a publication that is proud to serve the small and medium sized business community. My business, Bendalls Group, works with small, medium and big businesses. We love you all no matter what your size!

But step away from the labels for a minute and understand that what we’re all doing is running a business. By historical accident or design, the business you run might be ‘big’, but that in no way makes it more important or impactful than the ‘small’ business being run by someone else. You do not get to pull rank because your business employs thousands rather than tens. Your budget might run into the millions but watch what we can do on a shoestring. Your condescension and arrogance won’t fly here.

Don’t underestimate what we can do, especially in an era where we can quickly band together with like-minded souls across the world and online to get shit done! We might be ‘small’ by your traditional measures, but we’re big on innovation, collaboration and making things happen. And we’re fast. Very, very fast.

If you’re going to deign to work with a ‘small’ business (heaven forbid!), get ready to work. Get ready to hustle. Don’t bring the airs and graces of your corporate privilege to the table because we don’t have the time nor the space for that. Bring your ideas and goodwill. Bring an open attitude that is ready to give and take, to share and learn. We ‘small’ folk have a lot to teach you. And we know we can learn a lot from you.

Most of all, show a little trust and respect. We want to grow the pie and receive our fair share. We know you have KPIs and targets to hit, and that stuff is not always easy. But we want to do the very best we can by you and by us. To grow the pie together. To further our common goals. Trust and respect needs to be earned, and that goes both ways. Base your trust and respect on integrity and outcome, not on an arbitrary measure like ‘big’ or ‘small’.

You need us. We need you. We both need each other. Together, ‘big’ and ‘small’, we could do remarkable things! But please, leave your ‘small’ mentality at the door.

Kate Stevens

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