About the Author

Michael Doig is a science teacher, web developer, and avid traveler who lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Small Sharks Vs. Big Business

I just finished reading the new 37signals book Getting Real. It’s basically a more in-depth version of their often repeated message that you can hear on the Venture Voice interview. Keep it simple, keep it small, and be fast. Those are the main ideas, even so I highly recommend reading it.

As some of you may or may not know in a previous life I was a Marine Biologist and I worked with sharks. Reading this book reminded me of one specific shark, the cookie-cutter shark. The cookie-cutter shark eats by taking round (cookie-cutter shaped) bites out of its victims with its long teeth and powerful jaws, mostly attacking large fish and whales (including dolphins). In an attack, the Cookie-cutter shark’s lips attach to its victim like a suction cup (creating a vacuum). It then uses saw-like teeth that swivel and take an oval-shaped bite of flesh.


How does a smaller shark go up against bigger one and not get eaten? Well, from below the cookie-cutter shark looks like a small fish. It swims slowly and waits for a larger predator to attack the “small fish”. As the predator is about to attack, the cookie-cutter shark turns and attacks the attacker. The forward motion of the larger animal may even assist the cookie-cutter shark. By the time the larger animal realized what happened, the cookie-cutter is long gone.

I want to emphasize that the forward motion of the larger animal may even assist the cookie-cutter shark. If you are a smaller company and you are cruising along doing your own thing, if a bigger company comes along and tries to swallow your business their forward motion will help, you not hurt you. They’ll help you by strengthening your message, allowing you to provide better service, and if they do take your clients hopefully they’ll take the slower undesirable ones and leave you with the best ones.

If you’re small you can make changes quickly, respond directly to your customers, and implement technology without worrying about the ramifications, red tape, and bureaucracy. I know this to be true and I think nature has provided an example. The tiny cookie cutter shark is able to respond quickly, move faster, and use the energy of the larger animal to come away with a meal.

P.S. – I did take the picture.