Get Featured in Harvard Business Review

Peter Bregman is looking for case studies for his upcoming article in Harvard Business Review online.

He needs examples of small businesses that have gotten more business recently, preferably sales they took away from larger companies. He’s working on a theory of why smaller is better in this economic climate – increased trust, better relationships, higher moral, more control.

If you’d like to be featured in the article, post your story to comments. As much as you can, pinpoint the factors that led to your success.

If Peter selects your story, he’ll ask me for your email address so he can contact you directly. So your submission means you give me permission to share your email address with Peter.

Here’s a link to Peter’s page on the HBR site, so you can check him out.

I know he’s on a tight deadline, so don’t delay if you’d like to participate.

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6 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Howie Jacobson said on March 19 2009:

    I just added this comment to make it easier to find the Comments link. :)

  2. #2 • Pete said on March 19 2009:

    Hi Howie,

    I am founding co-owner and Vice President of a small family-owned business. Our company provides contract quality services (engineering, parts inspection, parts rework and liaison services) to automotive parts manufacturers. We currently have about 50 full-time employees, and our gross sales are around $2.5 million. Our customers include Fortune 500 firms like Johnson Controls, Inc., as well as very small companies with just a single plant. As you can imagine, working in the auto sector right now is challenging to say the least. Our overall sales have decreased; however, this is primarily due to plant closings, cancelled shifts, extended layoffs and cost-cutting measures (i.e. reduced rates, combined positions, etc.). While many of our larger competitors are struggling, or have already filed for bankruptcy, we are actually expanding into new markets and adding new customers. I believe we have been successful for the following reasons:

    1. Excellent employees. We are only as good as our employees, and we owe all of our ongoing success to their efforts.
    2. Our Core Values. The things most important to us are family, honesty, integrity, fairness, and doing things “the right way.” I believe good things happen to good people. As long as we all believe in and follow our core values, good things will follow.
    3. Superior Customer Service. I believe we provide the best customer service in our industry. When compared to our competitors, I think we are better almost all of the time.
    4. Fair Pricing. AZ has some of the lowest prices in the industry. This has allowed us to remain competitive with the bigger companies that can charge more.
    5. Fair Compensation. AZ pays out over 80% of our sales back to our employees. Our margins are very slim, but we are able to compensate by having very little “overhead.” For example, we don’t have Regional Offices all over the country where we pay rent, we don’t waste resources, and we don’t have outrageous salaries.
    6. Our “System.” We get some complaints about all of the procedures we have to follow, but these little things are all part of our “system,” and they work. Think of these requirements as the “foundation” of our house. Without a strong foundation, the house will eventually collapse under its own weight. Following all of these steps allows us to provide the customer with the service they expect, pay our employees on-time, get paid from our Customers on-time, and better manage the “business” side of things.
    7. Flexibility – being small and family-owned allows us to make quick decisions and react to our Customers’ needs in a very short time.

    Thanks for the opportunity and please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have any additional questions.

    Best regards,


  3. #3 • Steve Greenspan said on March 19 2009:

    The History of Poison Ivy Removal

    As a young boy growing up on Long Island, my favorite pastime and greatest love was playing outside close to nature. I can remember playing in what was then considered relatively fresh, unspoiled, heavily treed and wooded areas complimented by areas of mixed ground vegetation, which always seemed to include Poison Ivy/Oak, Poison sumac, English Ivy, Swedish Ivy, Cat Briar, wild Tea Rose, Honeysuckle, Crown Vetch to name but a few. In addition, the outlying surrounding meadows were equally comprised of several similar mixed areas of Poison Ivy Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, wild Raspberry/Blackberry/Mulberry, wild Strawberry, Ash, Maple/Box Elder

    By the time I reached 14 years of age, I had already contracted Poison Ivy at least 60 times, but never managed to figure out what the plant looked like, since it had so many permutations and variables, it was next to impossible. There were at least 5 known varieties growing then on Long Island, and I am sure that within this regard nothing else much has changed. Since the poison ivy plant’s leaves closely resembles so many other types and kinds of more desirable native vegetation, it was virtually next to impossible for me as a young child to be able to distinguish one from the other, leaving best chance best guess as my guide. With fate left to chance, I went about my business without so much as ever giving a second thought to my travails. Consequently I paid the price dearly and often, as I was usually head deep covered with poison ivy rash and scratching like a hound.

    Mysteriously this rash would always manage to start at my toes first (as I walked barefoot back then) and worked it’s way out and upward next spreading itself over my feet, climbing up the back of my both my calves and thighs heading straight for well… you can only imagine, then continuing on above upward to my face, nose, neck, arms, hands and fingers. Seems that there wasn’t a day that did not go by where every square inch of my body was covered either with poison ivy rash oozing blisters or calamine lotion to relieve the itch. Since I was perpetually steeped in PI rash covered from head to toe, I learned to incorporate the color pink into my daily wardrobe, since at the time nothing else seemed to work better than calamine lotion which my mother would ritualistically drench me in, daily from toe to head. I suffered miserably not only from the incessant itching and oozing blisters but from the taunts and ridicule of my playmates. Going to school (something I loved to do) became a living nightmare stemming from the ridicule and fun poked at not only the poison ivy rash but also at the pink stuff that was covering me all over from head to toe. In return all I could do was grimace and run away itching, emotionally upset and in tears (Little then did I know my emotional upset and crying were contributing themselves to making my itch worse). My only sweet revenge was that I would dare to chase away all those nay sayers. Those who got to close to me as they taunted me were only met by my running after them with my then still dripping oozing arms, by scaring them away with the thought that if they should ever make contact with me, they too would be cursed by this insidious squeamish colored yellow ooze with dried flakes of pink calamine lotion. Like voodoo, I had the power to get even, and so I did.. Now there was a redeeming empowering moment.

    So my real choices back then, either were to continue scratching as I did until I bled, or resolve myself to wearing the much hated and dreaded color pink and learn to like it. As a child, I never gave much thought to getting rid of the poison ivy plants themselves from where ever I walked, played or sat. Hence my idea was created out of my own necessity to control and remove poison ivy.

    For me to this day, I’m still not so sure which was worse; the itching & scratching, the bleeding and oozing, or the emotional upset associated with being ridiculed by fellow classmates for my wearing the color pink. For me it boiled down to wearing the color pink. What I did learn through living through this emotionally nerve wracking time, was that the Poison Ivy plants showed me tenacity and persistence paid off, since the plant survives today amidst the harshest of growing conditions and toughest environments – no matter what, it survives year in and year out. AS for me I have learned how to weather life’s greater disappointments by persisting through the difficult times and trying harder. As for me liking the color pink I finally found a place for it in my wardrobe, as for the itch I still can’t say since I haven’t figured out yet a way to get around it – but don’t worry, I will. I’m persistent and working on it! Now becomes servicing three states.

  4. #4 • Jeff Taxdahl said on March 20 2009:

    I am founder and owner of a small company that creates embroidered logo apparel for small to medium sized companies. We primarily market on the Internet and compete with much larger companies including Land’s End Business Oufitters.

    We have a lot of customers who tell us they are former Land’s End customers. So why are we getting and keeping them? I think it involves a number of factors.

    First of all our pricing structure is more flexible and easier to understand. We will work with customers who have special circumstances. We are not “locked into” or handcuffed by the company policy. In addition, our prices are better.

    Second, our employees are really good at helping people get the most out of their embroidered apparel. So I think service is a major factor. Creating a custom product with your company logo can be an emotional purchase for some business owners. We work very hard to create trust in the mind of customers that their logo will look great on the shirts they are getting.

    But I think the biggest factor is our ability to build and maintain relationships with customers. Once our customers begin working with one of our customer service people, that is their point of contact with our company going forward. They can call and ask for them specifically. In fact, because we are much smaller, chances are good when they call, their customer service person answers the phone.

    Successful companies are able to build trust and relatioships with customers. Because of our size we are able to do this on a higher level.

  5. #5 • joe pollifrone said on March 20 2009:

    I am co owner of Josephs Florist in Jersey CIty N.J.The floral industry appears to be suffering a 20% to 30%decline depending on which expert you listen to.Our sales have basically remained the same since September of 2008. We dont try to compete with Sams club ,Costco ,and the other big box stores in our area.When questioned by customers as to why our prices are higher,we have an answer that is honest and educates customers.We explain that our product is fresher,of superior quality,fully guaranteed and that our expertise and service is far superior .We are experiencing 20% growth in our on line orders,since consumers are choosing to deal with a local flower shop,going around the middle man[1-800-flowers,teleflora,and F.T.D] .This summer and fall we will be offering design classes for customers who may be out of work and are looking for a new career.Or those people on a budget who want to learn how to create their own gifts,decorate for a relatives party or wedding and learn a skill that may enhance their lives and save them money at the same time.Opportunities are there, we just have to search a little harder to find them. we are presently grossing about $925,000 per year we employ 12 people on a regular basis and expand our work force for holiday business. Thanks for considering our story!! Sincerely Joseph Pollifrone

  6. #6 • Lyann Courant said on March 24 2009:

    We’ve all read about how this is a great economy for cobblers and repo men but it is also an unprecedented opportunity for entrepreneurs like us. Our company, manufacturers, imports, assembles and re-manufacturers pool, spa and pond water filtration products. We sell them through pool, pond and spa retailers nationwide through Advantage Pools & Ponds (, direct to the public through and we target commercial end users through

    Unless you are at the top of the food chain and fully vested in the status quo, any change in buying patterns represents a chance to grab a bigger piece of the pie for a small, lean company. As a small “Brand X” supplier we are positioned to benefit from the resurgence of the frugalistas as we represent the best value proposition in the marketplace. That is code for cheapest – in every category.

    Our biggest impediment to growth has always been lack of capital and the seasonality of the business. In other words, we always sell out. This year we lost our credit line out of the blue in December (with two containers in port!) Fortunately, we were able to scrape up the dough to order as much inventory as we usually do in a reenactment of “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring our family and friends.

    However, this year, something else miraculous happened, our Chinese partner’s sales were down and he was willing to send more inventory than usual on net 90 terms for 100%. This is something we thought we’d never see. Great terms out of China? We’ve never had that – always 30% up front and the balance due for the B&L.

    The other day, I answered took an order from a guy who said he’d been searching for the best deal on an above ground pool pump filter system for 2 weeks on Yahoo. Over and over again, we kept coming up as the best value. He said quote, “I don’t need the Haywood name.” I’m assuming he meant Hayward and thrilled he doesn’t give a damn.

    Our Internet stuff is by no means state of the art or even “good enough.” But we’re there and we’re stepping up to execute the best Spring sales campaign of our life. The Chinese have a proverb, “In a crisis, opportunity rides on a dangerous wind.” We’re strapping on our saddles and hitting the trail

    We’ve never been so energized.
    (mariecourant is my other work life)