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Entrepreneur Joyce Bosc on Staying Small

Sure, getting to be as big as Microsoft might be fine for some, but you don't have to be that big to have a successful business.

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Joyce Bosc has a secret. Founder of Boscobel MarketingCommunications Inc., she maintains her secret is having a smallagency with big ideas. As president and CEO, her full-servicebranding, marketing, public relations and advertising firm that shefounded in 1978 has become one of the most respected andsought-after agencies in the Washington, DC, area. With just 20employees, BMC's accomplishments include launching thecorporate identity and branding of America Online as well asrepresenting the nonprofit company PowerUp, which is headed bySteve Case and Colin Powell. Today, speaks to Boscon why staying small has brought her continued success-and why itcould be a good move for your business. Why do youfeel staying small has helped you grow?

Joyce Bosc: I don't knowif I would say, "Staying small helped us grow," but Iwould definitely say, "Staying small has helped us staysuccessful." Personally, I think clients are looking foroptions today, and they're looking for smaller firms that canhelp them by providing creative ideas-ideas that are faster andmore reasonably priced.

"Even though we have a small staff, we have no weak links.Everybody's an all-star."

The other reason for staying small for me and why it was ourvision is, we want to be able to control the quality of our workoutput. In terms of meeting deadlines and meeting a client'sexpectations on quality work, we're exceeding it. That I thinkis exceedingly difficult the larger you grow. Also, to stay smallgives you a sense of freedom. By that I mean you have the freedomto decline any business opportunity that you don't reallybelieve is going to be a win-win. Sometimes when you get large, youfind you have to take on business and projects that you reallywouldn't [otherwise], but you have to, to make ends meet. Ican't tell you the peace of mind and the freedom it gives toknow that you can decline something if it's not going to be aperfect fit. And honestly, I want clients with the best possiblefit. It also allows us the freedom to pick and choose employeesbecause we don't need that many. So we can really select fromthe best. Even though we have a small staff, we have no weak links.Everybody's an all-star. Sinceyou've worked with such big names like AOL and Steve Case, haveyou ever felt persuaded to grow and take on more people?

Bosc: No. Not in 22years-honestly. I've never gotten caught into that trap. Ithink people just automatically think, "Well, that's thenext step." I guess I've never thought of it that way. Theother thing for me personally-and again everybody has to run theirbusiness their own way-but I believe very strongly in that 80-20rule. If I can stay small-and staying small to me means under 30people-then I can spend 80 percent of my time working on thebusiness, [and] 20 percent working in the business. And that20 percent of my time working in the business means that I stillget to visit client sites, have interaction, come to brainstormingsessions and still make a creative contribution to our workproduct. What wouldyou tell other entrepreneurs who may be struggling with thedecision of expanding their business? Is there a right time?

Bosc: Number one, before youmake that decision, scan your employee base and look to see if youhave any.not necessarily weak links, but anybody that'san average employee. And offer them an exit strategy with dignity.And the next thing is to take a look at your current client baseand see if there are any clients that would be better served by asmaller or larger firm. Then look at your competition and see if,by growing, you lose some sort of unique selling proposition.

I would also look at myself and decide what is it that I want todo. If you are going to be happy pushing paper and beingadministrative, without any hands-on involvement, then grow. But ifyou're the type of person that still wants to contribute, thenI would consider staying small. If you have a small company withunder 30 employees, it's very difficult for factions to becreated. It's easier to function with one mind and onevision.

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