What are the differences between a small, privately held business and a big corporately-governed business? With whom would you prefer to do business?

There are exceptions to these generalities, but think of your own experiences when doing business with an independent owner or a corporate representative. See if you agree with this comparison of Small and Big.

[1] Company Objective:

Small     Customer Satisfaction

Big          Return to Shareholders


[2] Key Performance Indicator

Small     Customer Satisfaction

Big          Profit or Revenue


[3] The Owner or CEO interacts with

Small     Customers

Big          Employees (assuming the owner or founder is still active)


[4] Policies & Procedures

Small     Written towards customer satisfaction and can be modified, if and when necessary

Big          Written to protect profit & revenue and that must be adhered to


[5] Employees are focused on

Small     Customers

Big          Customers, but also on their boss, the operations manual, their comp plan and profit & revenue


[6] Guarantees and Warranties

Small     Can and must be honored (the owner usually lives in the neighborhood)

Big          Beware the fine print


[7] Special Requests

Small     Most likely, yes

Big          Most likely no or the local representative will ask their boss who will ask their boss and . . .


[8] Payment Terms

Small     Flexible

Big          Per the policy which is focused on profits and revenue


[9] Returns and Allowance

Small     Flexible

Big          Per the policy which is focused on profits and revenue


[10] Community Support

Small     Sometimes yes and the support is usually less than huge

Big          Sometimes yes, and the support can be huge


[11] Listening to Customers

Small     Yes, most likely the owner wants to know

Big          The local representative will tell their boss who will tell their boss and . . .


[12] Expertise

Small     Typically, small business owners are experts in their field and have the freedom to share

Big Corporate representatives can be experts, but are constricted by policies and procedures and the pursuit of profit & revenue


[13] Happiness

Small     A recent Yodle business sentiment survey found that 91% of small business owners would

define themselves as “extremely happy” or “happy.”

Big          A recent survey completed by Gallup and reported by CBS News found that 70% of the total workforce is unhappy with their jobs.


The essential difference between small and big is the influence of the founder. Most every business begins as a small business and most begin because of one person’s passion and drive to make a difference (the pursuit of the dollar comes later).

As small businesses grow, the founder moves further and further away from their customers. When small, and the founder is serving customers directly, the motivation is customer experience, word of mouth, referrals and positive reviews. When big, money becomes essential: [1] Lower prices for customers [2] acceptable return to shareholders, and [3] paying competitive salaries to executives to better serve the board (and the shareholders).

There are exceptions to these generalizations, but for the most part, the smaller owner-operated business is more concerned with customers than the big corporate entities.

In your industry, or in your community, do you know who the owner-operated businesses are? If you are seeking a better customer experience, perhaps you should.


Dale Brodsky, Founder & Owner of Fundus Photo — provides a broad range of ophthalmic imaging equipment and Fundus Photo’s “NewVision Ophthalmic Imaging Suite”, software designed specifically for ophthalmic imaging and image management.