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The New Small: an Interview with Phil Simon

Phil Simon has written an interesting new book, The New Small, about a new breed of small businesses that are taking advantage of new technologies to leapfrog their larger competitors. (Talking to him about the book inspired my post about “Open Source and the Future of Small Businesses“.)  He’s also shared some insights about his new book with us in this interview.

What made you want to write The New Small?

As I mention in the Preface of the book, I saw a need. Many small business owners are awash in a sea of technological choices. They are too busy to research all of these technologies themselves. While my book is certainly no reference manual, it lays out options and provides advice that would take a long time—and a great deal of money—to learn on their own. There are many opportunities out there; many small business owners simply aren’t aware of them.

How realistic is it to want to start your own business in today’s world? What are some things to consider before starting your own business?

It’s very realistic. It happens every day. As I point out in the book, technology has drastically changed in the last five years. There are viable ways to minimize up-front costs, always a good idea when you’re hanging your own shingle. What’s more, social media allows companies to reduce often ineffective marketing expenditures.

Are there certain things in today’s world that make starting you own business a good idea?

Sure. The founders of the companies profiled in the book all were searching for something different—an alternative to traditional corporate life. There’s more flexibility being your own boss. You get a fundamental sense of satisfaction from working for yourself, and you can pursue ventures that you find worthwhile. There’s always been a sense in this country that you can succeed on your own terms. Technology today has made that easier, although the challenges of the current economy cannot be understated.

What technologies are most valuable to small businesses today?

In the book, I outline five. I call them the Five Enablers and they are open source software, software as a service (SaaS), mobility, social networks/media, and cloud computing,

From a technology standpoint, how have things changed for startup businesses? What’s different about now compared to when you started working with emering technologies?

The changes have been tectonic. At a high level, three things have changed. First, technology is vastly more powerful. Second, it’s much more easy to implement. No longer do you have to be a proper coder or programmer to deploy them. Third and perhaps most important, they’re much less expensive, if not altogether free.

I can remember working for a startup during the dot.com boom in early 2000. The company was spending millions of dollars on technology. There were really big projects with big problems. Now, such a company would not need to spend nearly as much time and money to go live with much more powerful systems.

I read in Macrowikinomics recently about how the technology costs have dropped more than one hundred fold over the last twelve years. It might even be more than that.

What do you hope to impart on the world with The New Small?

In short, that it’s better to be small. Progressive small businesses are doing some amazing things. The book tells their stories; it’s not a theoretical or abstract text by any stretch. Once you see what these companies are doing, you’ll want to experiment with some of the same methods and technologies.

Thanks, Phil!  You can find out more about technology and small business on Phil’s new website, TheNewSmall.com