How to Capitalize on Your Small Business Status

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This article was first written for the Small Business Association of Michigan as a resource for small business owners. You can find the original article on the SBAM website.

Size Matters. Many large companies and government agencies actively seek out highly qualified small companies to do business with. This offers savvy small business owners opportunities to diversify their revenue stream and customer base.

There’s homework in this article. So, go grab a pen. Quick. Do it. We’ll wait.

Write down three things your company does that makes you different. Don’t spend more than five minutes – make it the first things that come to mind.

Done? Keep that list handy. We’ll reference it later in this article. Now, back to size. Own it. This article is intended to help you capitalize on your size to increase revenue. How do you do this?

  1. Don’t lead with size. Lead with your experience, capabilities, differentiators, etc. We roll our eyes every time we see a capabilities statement begin with “A small, woman-owned business headquartered in Michigan….” No! Lead with your most important asset. That is your mad skill, not your small status.
  2. Don’t pretend to be big. Embrace the small status, knowing many large companies and government agencies value your nimble, more innovative culture. In fact, they might even be jealous of it.
  3. Build an asset list in advance. Keep it fresh. Your large counterparts have large teams for sales and bid responses. Let them be bloated – you can be efficient instead. For each of your key personnel, have a fresh resume in a format that meets your company style guide. (And if you don’t have a company style guide, make one. It’ll take you an hour.)

    Keep a list of client compliments. Document your past performance in a consistent manner. Formal RFPs will ask for this. Determine in your industry, what else might large organizations and government agencies ask for? Write it when you have time, not when you are on a deadline.
  4. Build relationships. If you are selling to large companies, don’t assume that registering in their vendor portal is enough. Just registering will not get you sales. This assumption is lame and lazy. Build relationships.
  5. Check your size standard. If you are selling to the federal government, remember that they don’t use a one-size-fits-all standard for size. Instead, they use NAICS to determine whether you are small, understanding that “small” in consulting or professional services is different from “small” in manufacturing. The first thing you should do is ensure you are small in the NAICS code(s) you intend to compete in. Check your size standard here.
  6. Create a targeted list of organizations you want to sell to. Then, determine what preparation you should do. Do they require you to be certified small? Do they buy what you sell? Do they know you exist?

    Remember that list of differentiators you created earlier? Within the next week, ask a few random employees what makes them proud about your workplace. Ask your customers what they value most in what you do. Augment your differentiators list with this, and keep revising it.

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