ellen manning

EMPR turns eight: Is ‘staying small’ such a bad thing in business?

Time flies when you’re having fun, as they say. So much so that it’s been four years since I wrote a blog on this website. Four years before that I turned self-employed, setting up as a one-woman band with not much more of a plan other than to ‘write stuff’.

In those eight years so much has happened that if I documented it all it would use up this little corner of my internet quite quickly. The aim was to be a freelance writer – a vague title that has grown arms and legs into a freelance journalism, food blogging, PR consulting, media training, event hosting, marketing and more. ‘Jack of all trades’, some might say. ‘Eclectic mix’ perhaps. Or ‘diverse revenue streams’ for the business-speak people among us.

Regardless of the title, EMPR and Ellen Manning Media Ltd has become a one-stop communications shop full of an array of clients and editors needing everything from food features to copywriting, PR advice, hosting, training and everything else in between. There have been disasters and obstacles along the way, long-term clients who put their faith in a relative unknown, and successes that I’d hoped of and worked hard for but never assumed would just happen.

Ellen Manning

In eight years, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined, diversifying and collaborating to offer what I think is a valuable service to clients who share my values, bringing together decades of journalism experience and recently PR experience and other comms work to give people what they need and want, in line with the values I refuse to sacrifice.

In latter years, as clients got bigger, the calendar busier, and EMPR’s client portfolio more extensive, the question of expansion has never been far from my mind. These days everyone wants an ’empire’, and aside from that, servicing multiple clients and managing bigger projects often requires more pairs of hands, but does that automatically mean having to grow?

Someone recently asked me how my ‘little business’ was doing? I’ll admit I smarted – it felt like it diminished those eight years of work somehow. Or suggested that the business I’ve built is somehow substandard because its number of employees remains solely me.

Ellen Manning

Then it dawned on me that being small is exactly where this business needs to be. And being small in size does not automatically equal being small in ambition, small in capability, or small in success. EMPR may only employ me, but that doesn’t stop it from providing a wider, broader, far-reaching service. Instead, I do this through collaboration and engagement with trusted associates so EMPR can tailor each project to the expertise required, augmenting my own expertise with that of others in areas I’ll happily admit I am not quite as skilled at.

That way, every client gets the services and expertise of a much larger agency – with the smaller, boutique, personal feel that attracts them to EMPR and the person behind it in the first place. The best of all worlds. Not only for them, but for me. While I so admire the business owners who grow and expand, I love working with each of my clients on a personal basis. It’s just who I am.

And so, as EMPR marks its eighth milestone it’s become so much more than just ‘writing stuff’ – yet is happily staying my ‘little business’. Because bigger doesn’t always mean better, right? At least not for this small business owner.