29/10/2014

BLOG: The Benefits of Staying Small

Say what you like, but size matters. Show me a Coca Cola ad campaign under £100m or a Tarantino film under three hours and I’ll retract that; but you won’t.

The thing is, size isn’t the same as quality. There’s an unwritten pressure in business that every company must grow. That’s what economics dictates and how business management is taught, but of course management practice is devised by accountants, not people motivated by creativity. If you’re motivated by quality, what’s the right thing to do?

In the games industry, things have changed massively since the introduction of the smartphone. While a console game still needs a warehouse full of talent to produce it, a team of three can develop a mobile game that could rake in millions. This gives a company like Mobile Pie the freedom to ask what size of company do we want to be, especially if we can remain small and still be able to generate a good profit.

More importantly the answer reflects who we want to be and what we want to do. What type of company are we? Staying small allows Mobile Pie to react very quickly to new trends, perhaps quicker than some of the big companies. Large companies with huge work flows are likely to be entrenched in a set way of working but, by their nature, small companies are used to moving from new project to new project, innovating along the way. I’m not saying that big companies can’t react quickly to new trends, but suddenly they’ve got their work flows filled up for the next six months and they simply don’t. This is where we little guys can flourish.

Being able to react quickly is a real positive in the mobile games market as it is still young and a bit of a Wild West. You’re still never quite sure what will work, and there’s technology to keep up with all the time. At Mobile Pie this means we must to be able to experiment and, unless you have a very forgiving client, that means practising on your own IP. It seems that smaller companies are much more likely to allow a few of their developers an afternoon off to go create a cheeky game, and that means continually experimenting in a very creative way.

However, being smaller we do have to be realistic when we’re pitching against larger competition. We can’t claim to compete with their staff rosters or budgets. We can’t say we have a longer track record or better contact list. What we can do, though, is put forward a pretty risky, leftfield idea to get noticed. Larger companies will tend to propose similar solutions again and again because that’s what they understand, and there’s a risk of them appearing stale. We try and exploit that by being more nimble and taking the risk of pitching a big, creative idea.

Another clear advantage is the personal touch we can boast. A client will often be dealing with our founders, whose passion for the work should shine through in comparison to yet another account manager. It’s simple stuff but if you’re a group of five, even a small job is likely to consume most of your time. That is not something a large company can even begin to claim. However, back to the quality issue again, the people commissioning you are often more concerned that you deliver a project on-time rather than you deliver it perfectly. Larger agencies will have dedicated project managers to ensure that happens, so we’ve had to learn to stress that we have processes in place to match them. Being ‘pro-small’ doesn’t mean you can’t grow your profits either.

In being small, focused and building a great reputation you should be able to grow your business perfectly well from lower overheads and better margins. Digital distribution has really opened up the global marketplace for creative. With very little effort we have learnt to sell our products around the world – avoiding that trap of thinking because you’re small you can’t compete on a global playing field. In the connected world small can be big business if you’re able to find your niche.

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