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.
4 min read
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Joyce Bosc has a secret. Founder of Boscobel Marketing Communications Inc., she maintains her secret is having a small agency with big ideas. As president and CEO, her full-service branding, marketing, public relations and advertising firm that she founded in 1978 has become one of the most respected and sought-after agencies in the Washington, DC, area. With just 20 employees, BMC's accomplishments include launching the corporate identity and branding of America Online as well as representing the nonprofit company PowerUp, which is headed by Steve Case and Colin Powell. Today, Entrepreneur.com speaks to Bosc on why staying small has brought her continued success-and why it could be a good move for your business.

Entrepreneur.com: Why do you feel staying small has helped you grow?

Joyce Bosc: I don't know if I would say, "Staying small helped us grow," but I would definitely say, "Staying small has helped us stay successful." Personally, I think clients are looking for options today, and they're looking for smaller firms that can help them by providing creative ideas-ideas that are faster and more 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 our vision is, we want to be able to control the quality of our work output. In terms of meeting deadlines and meeting a client's expectations on quality work, we're exceeding it. That I think is exceedingly difficult the larger you grow. Also, to stay small gives you a sense of freedom. By that I mean you have the freedom to decline any business opportunity that you don't really believe is going to be a win-win. Sometimes when you get large, you find you have to take on business and projects that you really wouldn't [otherwise], but you have to, to make ends meet. I can't tell you the peace of mind and the freedom it gives to know that you can decline something if it's not going to be a perfect fit. And honestly, I want clients with the best possible fit. It also allows us the freedom to pick and choose employees because we don't need that many. So we can really select from the best. Even though we have a small staff, we have no weak links. Everybody's an all-star.

Entrepreneur.com: Since you've worked with such big names like AOL and Steve Case, have you ever felt persuaded to grow and take on more people?

Bosc: No. Not in 22 years-honestly. I've never gotten caught into that trap. I think people just automatically think, "Well, that's the next step." I guess I've never thought of it that way. The other thing for me personally-and again everybody has to run their business their own way-but I believe very strongly in that 80-20 rule. If I can stay small-and staying small to me means under 30 people-then I can spend 80 percent of my time working on the business, [and] 20 percent working in the business. And that 20 percent of my time working in the business means that I still get to visit client sites, have interaction, come to brainstorming sessions and still make a creative contribution to our work product.

Entrepreneur.com: What would you tell other entrepreneurs who may be struggling with the decision of expanding their business? Is there a right time?

Bosc: Number one, before you make that decision, scan your employee base and look to see if you have any.not necessarily weak links, but anybody that's an average employee. And offer them an exit strategy with dignity. And the next thing is to take a look at your current client base and see if there are any clients that would be better served by a smaller 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 to do. If you are going to be happy pushing paper and being administrative, without any hands-on involvement, then grow. But if you're the type of person that still wants to contribute, then I would consider staying small. If you have a small company with under 30 employees, it's very difficult for factions to be created. It's easier to function with one mind and one vision.

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