IF your partner tells you size doesn’t matter, she’s lying. It does matter. A lot. I’m not going to get too personal here you’ll be relieved to know, this is supposed to be a serious business column, and I do have a serious business point to make.

You see size is also absolutely crucial in business. The inventor who creates a Viagra model for growth businesses is on to a real winner because all businesses actually want to be a different size. If you’re small, you want to be bigger. If you’re big, you want to appear smaller.

Huge corporates try to break their organisation into smaller autonomous business units in a bid to harness some of the entrepreneurial drive of start-up businesses. Entrepreneurial icon Richard Branson actively recommends this theory. “Once people start not knowing the people in the building and it starts to become impersonal its time to break up a company” he says.)

Young businesses develop models that will support rapid growth of their business; a listing or flotation is more often than not the end goal. And brand new start-ups often try to portray an image that is bigger than reality, in order to attract their first clients. We certainly did.

It’s perfectly natural to be self-conscious about your size. I’m a woman, I should know. But I don’t think you should get too hung up about it.

I don’t think it’s the size of your business that matters, it’s what you do with it that counts (now, where have I heard that before?).  Indeed, Microsoft grand master Bill Gates believes “size works against excellence”. I have a philosophy that is shared by entrepreneurs the world over – focus on the little things and the big picture will be a masterpiece. I can’t claim it as my own; I learned and adapted it from entrepreneurial hotelier Ken McCulloch whose guiding gem is to “do the simple things well”

And doesn’t it show? You only have to have experienced the attention to detail at One Devonshire Gardens or the customer service at his Malmaison hotels to appreciate the wisdom of those words. I had the benefit of working with Ken McCulloch while he was planning the UK rollout of the Mal chain and his customer-focus is truly legendary.

This week I met another entrepreneurial couple that follow the same principles: Bridget and John Brannon of Glasgow’s supremely stylish Langs Hotel.

We spoke for 90 minutes about their new business and not once did we discuss size. We just weren’t interested in the facts and figures, the number of rooms, size of the bathrooms (apparently the biggest anywhere!), the cost of development, nor the return on investment.

Instead, we spoke about the small things. And in Langs’ case, those things may be small but they are absolutely perfectly formed.

Their focus on the small, simple things is almost to the oblivion of everything else. We spoke about doorknobs, and how difficult they can be to manoeuvre when laden with luggage. We spoke about the little things that will make Langs a home from home for travellers. We spoke about the Langs culture, where employees are encouraged to believe that customer service is a career with a great future, not a job to be ashamed of. We shared our respect for Ken McCulloch, who is apparently taking his skills to Monaco as we speak.

Bridget and John Brannon believe in attention to detail. They travel the world looking for that attention to detail, for innovations and entrepreneurial ideas – big and small – that they can incorporate into Langs. And from focusing on the small things, bigger benefits definitely follow.

There is an old adage that suggests if you take care of the pennies then the pounds will take care of themselves. How true. That’s not to say that profit shouldn’t be a driver in your business. But if you focus on every little aspect of your business – big or small – from how your receptionist answers the phone to how your invoice your customers, how you cost a job and the after care service you deliver, then surely profitability will follow.


Another in the 10 years ago today series proving that the landscape hasn’t changed all that much really. Other than the fact that Langs has been sold, this column is as relevant today as it was then. Focus on the small things, obsess with the detail and path to success suddenly becomes easier to walk.