One of the truths of many American chain restaurants is that they all offer a portion size that no normal person could possibly finish. In theory, this is meant to ensure that you always have some food to take home – though critics will often point to this lack of portion control as a major factor in the obesity epidemic in America and its growth in many other countries around the world. Indeed, in the US, we seem to love celebrating the oversized – believe it or not there is even a Major League of Eating.

We have come to expect that portion sizes for everything from restaurant dinner entrees to movie popcorn will be huge.  Several months ago, my wife was attending a premiere of a new Bollywood film and sitting behind a famous and well known Indian actor. As someone brought him a “regular” size popcorn and coke to enjoy at the movie, he handed back the tub and asked for a “human sized” portion. 

Finding anything human sized is tougher and tougher these days – and the effect is going far beyond food.  Have you ever used the most of the special features on your phone?  How many of the hundreds of cable TV channels that you pay for every month do you actually ever watch? In a culture where excess is expected, your small business is constantly under pressure to offer more for less. Unfortunately, the cost of goods or services is a real cost which doesn’t scale.

How might you get around this without your customers feeling like you are skimping or just offering less value than your competition?  One trend in your favor is that there are plenty of consumers who would gladly pay the same amount (and perhaps sometimes even more) if they could find a “human sized” option. We don’t automatically want more or bigger stuff, we just want more value and offering less can be a type of value.

Small sized packages of snacks proudly declare they are “100 calorie servings” now. Apple is a brand that has become famous mainly for producing a VERY small number of products. Small is the new big – and that means simplicity can lead to a very profitable business strategy.

How many of us wake up and ask ourselves how we can offer LESS than our competition?  Probably no one – yet that may be the most important question you can ask yourself about your small business. Slapping more food on a plate, or more features into a list is not the same thing as offering more value.

Sometimes the most valuable thing you can do is offer less.