May 2011
Boutique & Bonsai Businesses — Too Many to Love

A boutique business usually deals in specialized fashion goods, sold at a premium price, from a single location. Today technology allows more business owners to take a “boutique” approach to their enterprise, meaning they are not interested in multiple locations or grand size, which are common attributes also among bonsai businesses.

So far, boutique and bonsai sound alike, each concerned with size and quality. What distinguishes a bonsai business from a boutique is the concern for the other party. Bonsai businesses thrive in a context of care, concern, contribution and connection.

Take for example Pittsburgh, Pa.-based DBAZone.com, specializing in remote data support. Their client list is top-notch. They could have goads more clients. Yet they recognize the limits of size, and don’t want to lose their close connections with their clients and among their team. So, they titrate their size in service to connection.

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen tells the story of discovering how her nephew prized his few matchbox cars. A thoughtful aunt, she devised a plan to acquire the entire matchbox set. As her nephew sat with the heap of new toys, the complete set, she was puzzled by his sullen face. When she inquired he simply told auntie that with all the toys he had now, “there were just too many to love.”

Sometimes that can happen in business. You can have too many clients to love. We all know the story of the thriving mom and pop restaurant that expands to a larger location then suddenly sinks. Ask the customers and they’ll most likely tell you the place “lost its feel.”

So, if you happen to feel the urge to grow your business larger remember you have a choice. Ask yourself if you have enough business. Do you know what is enough for you? Then, if you decide to grow, please guard fiercely your connections, as they are often, regrettably, the first casualty of growth.