It’s just you, or just two of you, but you’re leaving the corporate world where ‘organisations’ have teams of tens and hundreds of people, and you think they get as much business as they do because their size denotes their level of ability and value, and for you to be able to get business in the same market you need to look and sound like an ‘organisation’.
So you set up your business name to sound important – like International Accounting Experts – or The National Lawn Care Company.
And you decide you need to get a logo that looks like maybe IBM or Bunnings, to show your level of importance and obvious high quality services.
The next thing you need is very corporate sounding lingo right? So you create some swanky sounding titles for yourselves like CEO and Director. And you set up official looking email addresses like email@example.com or maybe even firstname.lastname@example.org because you want to show that you’ve got a PA who handles that stuff.
You website needs to look and feel like your ex-employers site, and be very similar to the sites of other bigger players in the market. After all – you know you’ve got to fake it till you make it right? And you fully intend to do just that.
Because you don’t know anything about websites, what they’re supposed to do or how they work, let alone what your website will do for your fledgeling business, you just take what the web guys say as gospel and give them the logo, some content and the other sites to use as inspiration.
You don’t want to pay for someone to write your content, I mean, you can write just fine, plus you know what you’re doing, you’re the expert. So you sit down and look at your competitors sites and start to create a similar version of their type of content for your site. And you send this to your web guys. Great. you’re excited.
You’ve purposefully used “professional” language in all your content. And been sure to say “We” and “our team” so as to give the impression you’re a bigger firm.
When you go to networking meetings you try to sound like you have a bigger team than you do, and hand out things like capability statements when attending a meeting with a potential client.
There’s only one problem.
You’ve made the mistake of thinking that you taking the other guys on at their own game is the way to go; and you’ve set everything else up to look and feel like you’re one of them.
Instead of running onto the field and playing a different game, you’re essentially running onto the field in the middle of a Wallabies test and hoping that your home-made green and gold jersey’s are going to fool the ref, the other team and everyone else too. Um … that sounds ridiculous right?
It get’s a little better.
The bigger firms have a lot going for them, granted, significant resources, established relationships, a great reputation maybe, and a lot more people. BUT – they also have a few things going against them – the people who work for them come and go – so the relationships with their clients and the specific service delivered is unlikely to be consistent. They’re selling a commodity.
Even the Wallabies have to deal with this issue. players get older, they retire, they get injured, and they have to be replaced. Sure, they have access to amazing talent and no-one is likely to stop supporting them because they don’t like one or two of the players, but that’s because they’re like Ernst & Young or Commonwealth Bank, so established that the specific individuals involved won’t make or break whether anyone supports them or not.
But in service businesses, the ONE major advantage you have as a one man or two man band is that you are THE VALUE. Your specific skills and expertise, you personally working with the client, that is a very appealing value proposition to some clients; the clients you should be targeting.
Play to your strengths. If you’re small, say so, and leverage the fact that you’re nimble, flexible, dedicated to your clients, and that you personally see to it that things get done.
And make sure that you build this in to your branding and marketing from the start. Choose an appropriate name, a logo that shows your style and approach, and a website that doesn’t look like a carbon copy of your competitors!!! When you write copy, write it as you would actually speak. Go to networking gigs and be honest. Capability statements done wrong and handed out at small business meetings make you look like you don’t get it.
So you see, pretending to be bigger than you are can actually make your life a lot harder than it needs to be, and have you miss out on the exact right type of clients for you, who would value what you have to offer.
If you take on the big guys at their own game,and you’re not doing anything remarkable and of real value that sets you apart, forget it, take a different approach, do things your way and find the clients who want what you’ve got.
Being bigger definitely doesn’t make you better. This is one of those times that size doesn’t count.