Do You Mind Being Called A SMALL Business?

“Hi, my name is Dharmesh, and I’m a small business person. No wait ….”

By just about all definitions of the term, my company, HubSpot is a small business. We have about 20-25 people in the company and are a business (we sell a software system for internet marketing). But, if you meet me at a party, when I introduce myself, I almost never say that I’m working for a small business. I generally think of myself not as a small business person, but as a startup person.

Is the startup segment a subset of small business? The analytical geek in me doesn’t think so. The “startup” classification is based on the notion of time (i.e. you recently “started”) whereas the “small business” classification is based on the notion of size. But, the practical side of me thinks of one as being essentially a subset of the other. So, technically, like most other startups, my company is a small business.

If Not Small Business, What Else? So, why do some of us sub-consciously resist the “small business” label? I think it has to do with the word small. Not that there’s anything wrong with being small. It’s just that I want to be big. But, try as I might, I can’t really come up with a better label for this market segment than “small business.”  Other variations I’ve come up with like “nimble business” and “growing business” are either platitudinal, inaccurate, or both. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that “small business” is not so bad. It’s accurate, it’s simple and best of all, it’s descriptive.

Small Business Is A Big Deal: Fact is, the small business label is getting a lot of attention and resonance. The existence and proliferation of the “small business” label helps many types of organizations. For those looking to reach out to small businesses, they can better target their offering.

Major publications like the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal attach the term “small business” to relevant content. Did you know Fortune magazine has a publication (and website) devoted to small business called Fortune Small Business? Major companies like Dell, AT&T and Microsoft have areas of their websites designed for small business. For the small businesses themselves, the label helps them find content, products and services which might be of interest.

It’s Great To Be A Small Business: So, small businesses everywhere STAND UP and be proud! It doesn’t matter if you’re a venture-backed software company or a highly specialized consulting firm with three partners — all small businesses likely have an overlapping set of problems and needs. By continuing to promote and encourage use of the small business label, we will attract more investment and attention into the sector. This will lead to more products, services, content and innovation designed specifically for us. This is a very good thing.

So, let me try this again:

“Hi, my name is Dharmesh and I’m a small business person!”

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Dharmesh ShahAbout the Author:  Dharmesh Shah, who usually doesn’t like to talk about himself in the third-person, is founder and chief software architect of HubSpot. HubSpot provides the industry’s first inbound marketing system for small businesses. He is also the author of a popular startup blog,


4 Reactions
  1. I’ve blogged at length on this topic as there are those who claim there is research that says small business owners don’t want to be called “small” business owners. However, each year, the companies you mention (American Express, FedEx, every bank there is, Intuit, etc., etc.) spend billions in marketing that continuously hammers home that “small business” is something good — that’s American as apple pie. Those who start companies they hope will one day go public or be purchased by BigCo may have an inherent and self-serving reason not to want to be called “small” as the exit-strategy of such a business involves a cashing-out that wants to be “big.” However, for most of the 20 million small businesses that are self-employed individuals or the companies along main street and sub-urbia, being small is wonderful.

    (Note: I’ll admit. I’m biased, as my 25-person firm ( does lots of things, but one small thing we are passionate about is a website called:

  2. Rex: Fair enough. I’m actually encouraged to hear that most of the millions of small businesses actually like the label. As noted in the article, I think that makes it better for everyone.

  3. “Small business” has become a kind of shorthand, as Dharmesh points out, to direct us to special offers, benefits and good things.

    And it’s taken on a very positive association.

    I think most small businesses have gotten over or are getting over their belief that you have to be “big” to count — or that you can’t admit your true business size to be taken seriously. In fact just the opposite — wearing your small size on your sleeve has become a kind of badge of honor.

    My business is small — and I’m P-R-O-O-O-O-U-D of it. That’s why the name of my company and my trademark contain the words “small business” within them.


  4. Who doesn’t know the phrase, Small is Beautiful. Big has so many bad connotations that it’s certainly a word to avoid. I rather like the word, Emerging. Makes you think of butterflies emerging from the chrysalis. Perhaps that’s an appropriate thought.