When you’re part of a small business, you survive on credibility. Traditionally a large part of this has been pretending you are a lot bigger than you are… Adding an extra team member or two, getting the right offfice address (or PO Box to hide the fact you work from home), fancy business cards, etc etc. There are a lot of tricks.
One of our team members who does a lot of sales, recently saw a statistic about the proportion of a sales pitch spent establishing credibility, something like 90%. Talk turned to the importance of all the things described above.
This is the ‘information age’, do you think people really care whether or not a secretary answers the phone or will they just assume (probably quite rightly) that you operate out of a virtual office? Is credibility still formed on the basis of how big you look? Or is it now formed through a far more meaningful process of discovering if you know what you are talking about inside out and understanding that when you have a problem, the owner of the company will deal with it personally, immediately.
Obviously it’s important to be professional, whether your working out of a garage or a plush office building, but do all the gimmicks small businesses use to appear big actually add to your credibility anymore?
Most of our customers are small business like us, and like us, they take an active interest in everything that happens in or to their business. These are the customers who it is not unusual to talk to over a weekend, because inspiration is not structured around the 9-5 weekday.
There is a massive difference between the ‘culture’ of small buinesses and large businesses, the number of people it takes to get stuff done, the time it takes, the money it takes, the passion of the people involved. These factors are helping people increasingly value the power of a small organisation, targeting a niche market over their cumbersome large counterparts. While we may feel like a mouse under the elephant’s feet, dwarfed by the competition, the big guys are wary of the small, fast paced, irritant running between their toes. And they have every reason to be.
In the web space particularly, the optimal organisation now is seen as smaller than ten people, globally dispursed and focused solely on being the best in a small area of a market. The recipe for success is "don’t do much, but do it well", find one thing you love and make it better, more simple and more usable than all the other options.
Big companies have long since realised that it is virtually impossible to innovate within the confines of a large company structure, hense they realise their only way to keep up is by aquisition, not competiton. Microsoft, Google and Yahoo’s (to name just a few) product catalogues are littered with small company inventions, and as Boris from Fleck.com points out, what they are buying is not the product itself, but the small business advantage.