You may have read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love, and if you haven’t, you probably know several people that have.  But this story starts before Gilbert became a best-selling author.

At first, Gilbert wrote for magazines. In an interview with Jesse Thorn, Gilbert talks about traveling the world alone as a young female journalist. The perception is that it’s dangerous for women to travel alone. However, Gilbert points out that she had an advantage – no one was afraid of her.  

With the advantage of not being feared, Gilbert had the opportunity to get stories that her male counterpart couldn’t get.  While a strange man can seem threatening in some situations, people let Gilbert – a stranger to them – hold their babies and come into their homes during her travels. Being a bit vulnerable turned out to be a big advantage for a journalist trying to get the scoop.

“I’m vulnerable because I am a woman,” Gilbert says, “but I have a superpower that is no one fears me.”

Gilbert’s take on hidden superpowers actually got me thinking about the vulnerabilities-turned-superpowers that come along with being a small business.  

Small businesses can seem vulnerable because they have less capital, less employees, less time.  But these vulnerable spots actually give small businesses some unique advantages.

Small Biz Superpower:  Fewer Employees

While big corporations have big payrolls, more bodies in seats doesn’t always correlate with being more effective.  Small businesses have plenty advantages by running lean:

Employees are treated like real people.  Small business employees aren’t being handed down directives from higher-ups they’ve never met.  Everyone has a personal relationship with each other on some level.

The ladder becomes the lattice.  Small business structure is lateral, so everyone can bring ideas and opinions to the table.  No one is stuck on a rung and there aren’t hard boundaries between departments and divisions.  Instead, everyone can lend their greatest strengths to areas of the business that need them the most.

The employee handbook is less of a book, and more of a guide. Small businesses don’t need a textbook of rules and regulations.  Company culture – not corporate guidelines – dictates employee behavior. At Hatchbuck, we all know our core values:  Be yourself, do the right thing, work hard – have fun, keep it simple, and make a difference.  We don’t need a rule book to tell us how to be Hatchbuckers, we do it naturally because our values are ingrained in our culture.

Running lean is running agile.  Unfettered from corporate policies and bureaucracy, small businesses can adapt quickly to changes in the marketplace.  They can turn on a dime to gain market share as technology evolves, or take a different approach when demand wanes.

Phenomenal customer service is a natural reflex. Small businesses are closer to their customers. Everyone, from the CEO to the front desk admin, connects with customers in some way. They are more in touch with customer pain-points, can resolve individual issues quickly and have the flexibility to offer custom solutions and support.

Small Biz Superpower:  Fewer Resources

Small businesses do more with less . While big businesses have the luxury of throwing money at things to see if it sticks, small businesses have to measure, tweak, test and repeat to make sure they are getting the most out of their investments. As a result, they are less wasteful and more innovative:

Small is sustainable.  Expenditures can’t get lost in bloated budgets.  With less capital, small businesses only invest in resources that can move the needle, so there’s less waste.  Plus, small businesses tend to be local, so employees aren’t commuting as far and more flexibility means that workers can telecommute.

Impact is local.  Fewer resources mean that small businesses stay local. Small businesses give back to their local community, they keep jobs local and contribute to local commerce, strengthening the overall economy of their region.

Targeted niche. Small business have fewer offerings, so they have to be laser-focused on producing a better product or service, allowing them to be highly specialized.  They’re the niche boutique in a world of cookie-cutter big box stores.

Fewer employees and fewer resources aren’t disadvantages, but rather superpowers that help small businesses do great things, and do them better than their larger counterparts.

How are you using your small business superpowers to do great things?