Being perceived as professional by outsiders is a common challenge for small businesses. Many startups reach a stage where meeting clients in cafes no longer cuts it. Here are 10 simple ways that your company can make itself look bigger it is.
When pressed, many startup entrepreneurs will admit that if their customers knew how small their operations were, they wouldn’t be taken seriously.
Some businesses win a tender or major contract and are pushed into the next level of growth before they are ready. But if you can deliver what’s required, there’s no reason why clients need to know that it’s just you (and perhaps a few key employees) behind the scenes pulling all the levers.
With today’s software, technologies, automated systems, virtual offices and assistants, it’s never been easier to play bigger than you are.
While I’m not suggesting faking things you really need – like qualifications, permits or the stuff you need to stay out of jail – there are plenty of ways in business that faking it until you make it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
All you need is courage and the conviction to see it through and deliver on your promise.
Note: Faking it Til You Make It has nothing to do with lying or misrepresenting yourself. It’s about seeing what you can be, projecting it and delivering upon it.
Here are some tips that have worked for me and some of my customers.
1. Dress Sharp
I can’t help it. I judge books by covers. And most people in business do, too. Dress sharp. Enough said.
2. Have a professional email address
firstname.lastname@example.org isn’t exactly projecting a big business success story. Get your own email server, a hosting provider with your business domain name or investigate other cheaper/free alternatives (like Google Apps).
3. Have a top quality business card
We’ve all had it. That embarrassing moment when someone hands you a screamingly cheap business card. What do you say? “Oooow, well done. You obviously saved about $150 on printing a really good business card.” Your card is a communication tool. Use it to say you’re a quality product.
4. Use different email addresses
Set up email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc. – even if it is you who is responding to all of them. No one needs know you’re a one-man band. (While I know of people who answer the phone and pretend to put it through to ‘accounts’, then take the call, I don’t recommend this unless you’re a great method actor or want to sound like a Simpson’s episode.)
5. Have an impressive website.
Impressive doesn’t mean expensive, but it’s your storefront to the world. For many clients, it’s the first stop when trawling for prospective suppliers. Don’t engage you’re mate’s son who’s studying design, unless he is going to create a cracking website you’ll be proud of.
6. Get a proper workspace
When “Let’s meet at Starbucks” means “I don’t have a smart space, so let’s meet at a café” it’s time to move on. Bureaux members, no matter how big or small, have access to the smartest boardroom and meeting facilities in the country and use it as they need it, keeping appearances up and costs down.
7. Expand interstate (virtually)
A business card with offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane suggests a large operation, and in some cases it’s a necessity to have. It’s easy and inexpensive to benefit from virtual addresses where your mail and calls are answered and re-directed through a virtual receptionist and smart postal address.
8. Get a smartphone
If clients see you on the phone, show them your systems are the best. A brick mobile from the 1980s outdates you and your business. A smartphone can also make you more mobile and efficient.
9. Have a ‘Yes, we can!’ attitude.
If asked to do something you haven’t done but know you can achieve, say yes. Have the “Well how do we make this happen?” moment in private, then get on with the job at hand.
10. You tell Me!
Send your tip for how small business can look like big business. The best tip will win a free one-month membership (worth almost $500) to Bureaux that can be used in Melbourne and Sydney.
Rowena Murray is Director of Bureaux Business Lounge Australia.