Small Business Wins the Game

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Print this article Print


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Ziff Davis Channel Zone Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols thinks that small business, just like small ball in baseball, is what can really win the business game.

Wouldn't it be great if every deal you ever made were for six, seven—dare we say it?—eight figures? It would also be great if I could lose weight eating chocolate ice cream, but it doesn't work that way. Instead, what most of us rely on are bread-and-butter four- to six-figure deals to keep the money coming in.

All too often, we get so wrapped up in landing the fat contract that we collapse when we can't score the game-winning home run. In baseball, hall-of-famer Earl Weaver, former manager for the Baltimore Orioles, based his entire theory of winning around the idea of the "big inning": Instead of constantly trying for small advantages, he put his faith in power hitters smashing home runs in a single, decisive inning. If you have a Barry Bonds on your team, that's great; unfortunately, not too many teams have players of his caliber.

Let's think about Barry and his team, the San Francisco Giants, for a minute. Barry, in case you don't follow baseball, has been on one heck of a tear this season. He's batting nearly .400, still hitting dingers, and most teams won't even pitch to him anymore so he's on his way to setting an all-time record in walks. But, as I write this, his team is four games below .500 and seven games behind the division leader.

Why? Because Bonds doesn't have any support. In baseball and, I would argue, in business no one great person, no single outstanding deal can keep you a winner.

So it is that in the technology business, you can't count on big innings. You have to play small ball. And one of the best ways to do that is to focus on doing the small things right for small customers.

Fortunately, the large vendors, companies like Link Text, IBM and Oracle, are all trying once more to learn how to play small ball with both products and channel partnerships designed to deliver for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

What I like most about this new generation of SMB partner packages is that they not designed to be one-off sells or one-offs plus maintenance. They're designed so that you can build a real solution to solve your customers' real problems.

Take, for example, IBM's new WebSphere Business Integration Server Express. The whole game plan of this package is to give you what you need to quickly build customized packages for your customers. While it certainly helps to have programmers on staff for some of what it offers—like integrating your own vertical program into it—for the most part, you can build Joe Shoe Store owner a top-of-the-line management program without sweating the code.

Will Joe Shoe make you rich? I doubt it, but if you play small business right, you'll up ending winning your own business world series and will become a successful, profitable business.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Ziff Davis Channel Zone editor, has been writing about the channel for over a decade.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor of eWEEK.com's Linux & Open Source Center and Ziff Davis Channel Zone. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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