Sometimes being small as a company can be limiting in and of itself. When you are starting to build your client pipeline you get to a point where you're courting big companies. Being small can put the skids on the relationship building because being small is often considered risky. Big companies usually avoid risk. So how can you be small but be perceived as something bigger? Cast a big shadow.
Polished Paper Image
A small company can have a larger perceived presence. Step one is to have a polished presentation image. Make sure that all your presentation materials are consistent, document and present your processes and make sure all your marketing materials are four-color glossies. You will always have “your shoes untied” if you don’t have the basics down. These documents need to be coordinated with your website, business cards, etc.
Pick only a few trade shows to have a display booth at. For the shows you attend have a big presence. If a standard show is a 10’ by 10’ space, then do a 20’ by 10’ or larger space. Rent a display booth and have good custom graphics down. If your product presents well on screen then rent a plasma screen or two. Bring in every employee you have to staff a booth. Even if the employee is an accountant, fill the booth. Renting“models” or “presenters” is an option, but they will never be as diligent in their efforts as an employee. Everyone will assume this is your normal traveling show and assume the office folks are still in their cubicles. For trade shows you
don’t have a booth at, work on your partnerships to have space at their booths. This works well for larger companies that have larger booths and associates your company with their established brand. An alternative is to rent a nice suite in a nearby hotel to the conference to use as a meeting space and host cocktails. Also, look for opportunities to be on presentation panels at trade shows. They are a good way to present your company as a knowledge expert and get on stage with larger established brands.
Leverage Partnerships in Your Head Count
Often a common question is "how big is your company?" You may have eight employees on actual payroll but it’s more likely that you have far more people working for you than that. When you give a number answer, include accountants, engineers, software persons, support people, lawyers, board members, etc. They are all hired by you and working on your success whether or not they are a direct hire. Craft your answer, “We have X people working for us.” Any one who gets a check from your company is included in that number.
Keep Your Family Photos in Your Hip Pocket
It is important for everyone who interfaces with the outside world to have knowledge of your strengths, people and relationships. It should be as easy as photos in a wallet to present your startup “family”. This includes the executives on your team, the brands as clients and partners and the power houses on your board of directors or advisory boards. This is your who’s who. Everyone in the startup should know who they are and why people would want to know them.
Fill the Phone
A common practice of large consulting companies is to have lots of people at key meetings and fill the room. Some of this is practical in that there is a lot of collective knowledge at your fingertips but most likely it is just a show of strength. In this telecom day and age it is quite easy to fill the phone. Teleconferencing is a common follow up in the sales process. When you have these calls bring on lots of your team at any single time – sales, technology, marketing, installation, support, accounting, account management, etc. When these meetings are combined with follow up emails containing contact lists, process documents and technical documents, you end up making a large show of force and a big impression.
Outsourcing is nothing new and neither is hiring professionals for services, however, many start ups decide on what their core competency is going to be in their business model and then wholly outsource the rest.
What makes these types of arrangements different is when your outsource partners provide people who sit on your management team, integrate into your on-going team meetings and have direct knowledge of all aspects of your business including sales pipeline, cash balances, etc. and are providing on-going and expanding services opportunities without fear of competitive bidding. These partners may also be incented with shares in the start up.
The list of advantages includes:
- Ability to rapidly scale business capabilities
- Remaining focused on what is most important to your business model
- Leaning on those that have a deep bench of knowledge experts
- Having immediate information shared to others outside your company
- Benefiting from many minds involved with problem solving that you don’t directly pay (managers within your partners)
- Maintain a fixed fee cost model
In your small company learn to shine the lights in just the right way to create one heck of a big shadow.