Many small businesses aspire to be like the bigger companies that sit in the bracket above them. It’s kind of like how aspiring athletes look up to greats like Michael Jordan. Just as young players study Mike’s game and work tirelessly to incorporate slivers into their own skill sets, small biz owners watch the big boys from the sidelines and wonder how they can borrow some of that enterprise savvy for their own operational strategies. Sadly, admiration often turns into disappointment when realizing that they lack the finances and foundation needed to duplicate their success.
Every organization would love to have an astronomical budget and ample infrastructure resources at their disposal, but success is still attainable with limited amounts of both. As these small business tips show, even the tiniest IT providers can operate like tech giants by adopting a few best business practices.
Incorporating your name is one of the easiest ways to foster the illusion of a bigger company. In addition to being cheap, quick, and simpler to handle than you probably think, going the route of incorporation offers other distinct benefits:
- Enhanced credibility: Tacking “Inc.” on to the end of your business name adds instant credibility. This added sense of legitimacy will go a long way when it comes to attracting the business of customers, vendors, and partners.
- Personal asset protection: As a corporation, you are allowed to separate your personal assets from your business and keep them protected. Personal asset protection will prove invaluable should someone come after you for debts or try to sue your company.
- Tax breaks: Being incorporated means you can elude double taxation and other situations sole proprietors are subject to. You also get to deduct employee salaries and numerous business expenses for substantial tax breaks.
- Perpetual longevity: A business run by a sole proprietor ceases to exist when ownership changes or the owner walks away. A corporation can exist many years after the owner has left or even passed on.
LLCs enjoy many of the same perks as incorporated businesses. Both will help you limit your liability and safeguard your personal assets while making your company look big time.
Bring New Staff On Board the Right Way
My wife works for a well-known multi-million dollar company. One of several complaints she has about her job is their poor recruitment strategy. Turnover is probably higher than it should be and new employees seem to have a hard time getting up to speed. They may be lacking in recruitment prowess, but from what she tells me, I think it’s more of a problem with their onboarding strategy.
Onboarding is the process of welcoming new recruits into the company and grooming them for success. A typical program is comprised of orientation, goal setting, training, and embedding the corporate culture within employees. In an ideal scenario, onboarding drives greater productivity, higher employee morale and satisfaction, lower turnover, and a stronger organizational commitment.
Here are some stats from a Lesson.ly article on employee onboarding that stand out:
- 25 percent of employers do not include training of any form in their onboarding programs, which results in losing an alarming 60 percent of their workforce.
- 35 percent of employers pour absolutely no money into onboarding and making sure new hires are trained to be productive.
- 60 percent of employers fail to set any goals or milestones for new hires to achieve, which makes it difficult for employees to reach their full potential.
- Employers that implement an onboarding program see 54 percent higher productivity from new hires and 50 percent better new hire retention.
- New employees who participate in properly structured onboarding programs are 69 percent more likely to stay at the job for as many as three years.
When it comes down to it, your staff dictates whether you’re perceived as a dependable IT service provider or an unreliable mess with poor customer service. They will contribute to major success when thoroughly schooled on how to help the organization maximize its potential.
Tighten Up Your Web Presence
This next one goes beyond small business tips and extends to organizations of every size. When potential clients are in need of the services you offer or want to look you up specifically, they’re probably gonna seek you out online. In the digital age, your website is just as important as the data center that houses your IT infrastructure. So if they navigate to your web space and see a dated design, an abundance of ads, or poorly written copy, you could end up losing out on a lot of business because of it.
Even a one-person IT shop has no excuse not to have a website that leaves a huge impression on its visitors. A small investment in professional web design is all it takes to create a site that looks good next to the most established of industry heavyweights. While you’re at it, spend some time sprucing up your social media profiles. Make sure your social destinations offer up to date info and a consistent flow of relevant content that encourages the right people to connect.
Get to Know Your Customers
Not all corporate behemoths are too big to pay attention to their customers. Look no further than Apple for a prime example. The gadget god makes the customer experience a core part of the company culture, and that dedication shows across its entire business strategy. As you probably know, a robust update size made the iOS 8 rollout a huge problem. Apparently the complaints were heard because Apple has made iOS 9 a lightweight update that promises to eliminate those pesky installation errors and make upgrading to the new software the cakewalk it should be.
Smaller IT providers should take a cue from Apple and other successful companies by getting to better know their customers. Find out what they love most about your company, what they dislike, and where they would like to see you improve. Some of this intel can be obtained from the data you collect in the form of sales transactions, email clicks, and social media engagement. You could also take a more targeted approach by asking customers to complete surveys that garner the exact feedback you’re looking for.
Embrace Team Work
Success is a team effort and in the IT space, the most prolific teams usually consist of members from both inside and outside the organization. If you can rub shoulders with some bigger companies or local celebrities, go for it and then get your PR people to boast about it. Sponsor a local event or charity that is dear to your heart. The goal here is to illustrate how your company has an identity that exists beyond the intimate culture employees and customers know.
What if you’re that one-person IT show we briefly mentioned? In that case, an outside team could be essential to not only looking bigger, but scoring big deals. For example, a potential client may be more likely to give you their business when they know you’ve got world-class connections on your side. Of course you need to make sure your IT security, cloud computing, and BDR partners are ready to spring into action when they are needed.
Seize the Limelight
Speaking of PR, gaining press coverage is a business practice companies have been using to beef up their profile for generations. Unless you’ve been up to something scandalous or unscrupulous, media exposure is a good thing, so try to obtain as much as you can. Keep in mind that media doesn’t necessarily mean a TV interview or a feature in the Sunday paper. Nowadays, guest posts on prominent industry blogs or occasional podcast appearances across partner channels can be just as beneficial to your company’s image and growth over time.