President of Montreal-based HMS Software, public speaker, project management industry expert
Many small businesses are intimidated by the prospect of pitching their products or services to large multinational corporations. Even under pressure to find new revenue streams, they hesitate to reach out to companies many times their size because they doubt their ability to play in the big leagues.
The truth is, bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to business. Small companies can in fact take on large corporate clients just as well as – and sometimes even better than – a larger rival.
I've seen this firsthand through more than 30 years helping companies improve their business performance. My company, HMS Software, alone is proof that there are no limits when it comes to small business growth. We were only two people when we launched the company in 1984, and yet our first client was a division of a global giant based in Europe. We stayed small through the years, averaging 15 employees, but our client roster grew to include industry giants such as Philips, Volvo, Xerox, Boeing, General Electric and Siemens.
What's the secret? Here are some tips I've found to be highly effective in helping small companies secure multinational accounts:
Think like a GPS. If you want to get somewhere, you need to know two things: where you are now and where you are going. Just as a GPS won't work if the satellite can't find your position, the first step to attracting big business is recognizing your current resource capacity and level of expertise.
Focus on a niche. Know your company's strengths and groom them. We had a fleeting moment in our company's early days when we considered expanding to other areas of software development, but quickly realized it was our specialist knowledge in project-based time management that caught the attention of the multinationals in the first place. This may mean turning business away when it doesn't fit your focus. But it also means employees can put 100 per cent of their effort into being the best at your core competency. Consequently, your company will stand out from the pack.
Rely on the Internet. Your business may be small, but your online presence needs to be huge to demonstrate your company's expertise in your field and position your business as an international market leader. Use your expertise to create engaging content such as blog posts, videos, client testimonials, a Twitter feed and social media links. Not only will this strengthen your company's search-engine ranking, but anyone coming across your online content will walk away feeling confident about your company's ability to manage big accounts.
Maximize efficiency. There's no room for waste when you have limited resources and are striving to win large contracts. All employees should track where their time is being spent and assess how tasks can be eliminated or streamlined. This will help your team better service the big guys in spite of your company's size. Think of better time management as adding resource capacity without hiring.
Be a thought leader. When you share an unexpected or provocative point of view, big business listens. Reach out to trade, digital and mainstream media outlets with story ideas and introduce your employees as reliable, knowledgeable sources of information in your area of expertise. Seek out speaking engagements that reach your target audience and support your staff in honing their communication skills.
Once a big customer is secured, providing exceptional customer service is key. The goal is to make every customer a reference, and the way to do that is by holding all employees accountable for customer satisfaction. When it comes to taking your company to the next level, it's not size that matters. It's what you do with your size that makes big business take notice.
Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.