And funds are tight. In the early stages of any small start-up, entrepreneurs need to make do with whatever they can. Whether it’s borrowing their mother’s computer, or working out of their own back bedroom, small business owners use all the resources they have at their disposal to start and grow their company, even though that may not be much.
Giving the illusion
They might be operating at a disadvantage, but according to American entrepreneurship expert and motivational speaker Evan Carmichael, entrepreneurs have at their disposal a number of tools to help them take on their larger competition. “You may be a one-person operation,” he says, “but your customers and your competitors don’t have to know that.”
The first and most important step to making your business seem bigger than it is, says Carmichael, is to make sure you have the right telecommunications system in place. “You need to always be reachable,” he says. “Even if you can’t afford 24-hour receptionists, having a cell phone or a separate phone line that can act as a 24/7 fax machine will help.”
Carmichael also suggests outsourcing your calls to a serviced office, where customers can call at any time of the working day and be answered by ‘your receptionist’, who will then eiother take a message or transfer their call to you whereever you are. This will also give customers the impression that your company is in the big league, and if coupled with a prestigious postal address and access to meeting facilities then you really are appearing to be playing with the grown ups.
Another crucial tool that entrepreneurs should not overlook, suggests Carmichael, is the internet. “Creating a professional website with high-quality graphics and useful content will go a long way to making your company seem larger than it is.” The key word here, however, is professional. A poorly designed website will do more harm to your business than not having one at all.
“Having an online presence is also a good way for entrepreneurs to use their creativity in building credibility,” says Carmichael. For instance, he suggests they create a “contact the CEO” link, even if they are the CEO, the accountant and the receptionist all in one.
Making yourself accessible online and via the telephone is important, but what about when you just have to meet a client face to face, or make a presentation to a potential investor? Do you really want to bring them into your house with your dog running around and your laundry hanging up?
For those times, says Carmichael, consider renting an office or a conference room for just a few hours each month. “When there’s that big fish that you are just dying to reel in, bring them to your rented suite. It is a cheaper option for you, it presents you in a professional manner, and chances are they’ll assume it’s your permanent office.”
Whatever steps you take to make your business look larger than it is, Carmichael stresses the importance of raising the bar. “As entrepreneurs, we need to do whatever it takes to be taken seriously, especially in our start-up days,” he says. “Set high standards for yourself,- and be willing make the investments you need to play with the big boys.”