Growing your small business isn’t as easy as it might look. Few people or organizations want to partner with a company they think is a start-up or a company that’s being run out of your garage, after all. There’s an expectation that you need to be a well-established, larger company to build the biggest client lists, but that’s easier said than done. Huge multinational businesses didn’t get that way overnight, after all, yet nobody wants to give your company the time to grow to such a full potential.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to overcome this psychological programming people suffer from when it comes to small businesses. The trick isn’t in convincing people to change their mind about how they feel about newer start-ups or smaller-scale businesses with fewer resources; that’s just not going to happen. What you can do, however, is to make your small business look larger than it really is. Doing so will get you past that built-in bias and allow you to show prospective clients and partners just how professional and valuable your company can be, despite its size. Here are some of the best ways to accomplish that.
1. Get a Separate, Centralized Business Address
First things first: if you truly are running your business out of your own home, it’s not advisable to use that as your business address. It takes about 10 seconds Google a listed address, and if your company’s physical location just happens to coincide with an apartment complex or a residential street, this is a red flag for anyone who looks down on small businesses unfairly. There are easy solutions to this dilemma — and none of them involve renting out an office suite somewhere in a commercial building you can’t afford.
There are a number of excellent alternatives to this in the form of managed mail services, both through commercial establishments or otherwise. There are a number of organizations that will provide reasonably priced mailing services ranging from FexEx and UPS stores to the good old US Postal Service. A post office box address is a classic way that small business owners have been providing their companies with legitimacy for generations.
2. Invest in a High-Quality Website
High-quality website design is a must if you’re trying to convince people to give your small business a fair shake. It’s tempting to cut corners on your web design budget by either going the do-it-yourself route or finding an ultra-low-cost option, but the truth is that in these instances you most certainly get what you pay for.
The bare truth is that people judge your business by how you present yourself to the world. If you have a poorly-designed website filled with bland, uninteresting content, you’re not going to generate any interest in your company that way. Instead, invest the required time and money to get a professional-grade website filled with professionally-created content to show the world you mean business.
3. Use a Virtual PBX to Field Phone Calls
It’s tempting to use your own mobile phone number as your business phone contact, but if your small business is any bigger than just you, it’s unlikely to be helpful in such a situation. Most medium to large-scale business offices will resolve this by having a private branch exchange, or PBX system, that lets a number of employees use a single phone system at once by providing various phone lines to a single business, but these systems are much too expensive for a smaller company.
The quick fix to this — and one that still allows your modest little office to appear to have the capacity to handle several different lines of phone traffic at once — is to turn to a virtual PBX system instead. Voice-Over Internet Protocol systems, which leverage the power of cloud computing, are much more reasonably priced and are just as robust when it comes to PBX features. You can even use professional-sounding virtual answering services direct calls to different “departments”, even if all those calls end up going to the phone in your garage.
4. Narrow Your Focus, Widen Your Chances
This final point is all about how you position your business — and yourself — when interacting in professional environments. It revolves around both narrowing the focus of your company overall while also widening your chances of positive networking interactions by specifically choosing how to present yourself at industry functions. The key here is choosing a niche market for your company to inhabit, as this provides you with opportunities to focus your efforts on a smaller number of conferences and industry events.
Focusing on a smaller subset like this will make it easier to ensure you or a business partner can attend these events. A corollary to this is to not include your title on the business cards you hand out at these events. It’s extremely easy to have custom business cards printed up for your small business nowadays, so it’s a natural inclination to include your position as founder, CEO, or whatever position you like on those cards. On the one hand, this makes sense — it’s your business, after all. Yet you’re not going to look like the head of a very large company if the CEO shows up to hand out business cards at every event, are you?
The Final Word
It’s not fair that people won’t give your small business a fair shake. That’s why the strategies detailed above — and plenty more — are your best bet in fighting back against the often unconscious bias against small businesses. Making your own start-up or small business look bigger in this way is the best way to even the playing field for you and to provide yourself a chance to compete and grow into the owner of the company you know you can achieve.