Company size matters. Big, isn’t always best.
We have been a small business, having started out with two of us in a dining room. And now we are probably considered “big”, certainly within our location and agency sector, and at the time of writing this, we have 44 people in the team.
The interesting thing is, that when you are the small company you often strive to be seen as being bigger. Recently, some interesting things have occurred.
We have found out that a number of clients who fit smack-bang in the middle of our core audience didn’t approach us initially because they thought we would be too big. I wanted to write this post to try and get to the bottom of why that is and what companies can do about managing this perception.
Firstly, we are really fortunate to even get this feedback… and those clients who I mentioned, who thought that we were too big, I’m very pleased to say are now our clients. This only happened because someone had to push them our way saying “it’s worth a chat”. I know that won’t be the case for all people and we will have no doubt missed out on business because of this perception.
After doing some more digging, and speaking to the clients in more detail, we found that when they say “big” they associate that with:
- A big company doesn’t care as much as a small one as it is more profit-focused
- A big company can’t offer a personalised service and the service levels drop
- A big company has more overheads so has to charge more to do the same thing
Before looking at how you change that perception, let me debunk the above points. Sadly, a few broadband and telephone companies spring to mind where the above points do match up! But, that is a sweeping statement and not applicable to all.
Big companies don’t care as much as a small company as it is more profit focused.
Sitting in a dining room, eating soup for the 7th day straight, let me tell you that small companies DO focus on profit just as much! Small companies definitely care about winning or losing business as it can make or break them. But in my opinion, in order for big companies to actually remain big or grow or evolve they have to keep caring. If they don’t, I genuinely think it is the beginning of the end.
I don’t think size is the factor here. It is more about your values. Those should remain regardless of how big you are. I still feel it if we lose a client, and I still get excited about winning a new client and helping them to take their business forward.
Big companies can’t offer a personalised service and service levels drop.
I was heavily involved in running the early accounts we managed. I am not what you call a “detail person”. I am the business owner and CEO though (I know, big deal right!). The thing is, it may seem like a great thing to have the MD or CEO running your account. But, are they the right person?
In my case, I am not. As we have got bigger we have recruited the right people and put them in the right seats. If I attempted to run an account for a client now, it would end badly. I am not available when they need me, and my level of expertise isn’t what they would need to get the best performance. We have, without a doubt, improved our service levels from being a small company to becoming a bigger company. Again, this is because we know it is a core value that helps us grow as a company. It isn’t an issue about big or small, it is either a value you live by or not. The issue comes when you forget this, or if you have the wrong people in the business who don’t share your values.
Big companies have more overheads so they have to charge more.
Technically yes, big companies cost more to run. But, it doesn’t always mean they are more expensive. We spend a lot (really a lot) on technology and tools to help the team deliver amazing work for our clients. We simply couldn’t have afforded to do that in year one as we would have had to pass that cost on to a smaller number of clients, costing them a fortune.
As we have grown, and the client base has grown we can spread that cost and deliver a better service in the process. Also, we have our fixed overheads like the office space, but as we get bigger that cost becomes less per team member. There are peaks and troughs in this process as you scale up a business and have a higher overhead to output, but ultimately if you structure things well and manage costs you should find that it is cheaper to run per person than a smaller business.
How do you change people’s perceptions?
We are re-assessing our target market and looking to ensure that we are actually focusing on the right area. I think we got a bit wrapped up in chasing the wrong clients and possibly pushed the “bigness” of the business in order to try and impress them.
Ultimately, perception is all about effective communication. We are currently reworking our brand to ensure we are not seen as faceless. Yes, we are “big”, but actually, we are just a collection of really awesome people who care about doing amazing work for our clients.
We have it as an internal value, but we need to make sure those values are evident in all our communications and channels. It is not a quick win, it is not an overnight thing. It must be in everything you do, constantly and over time, people will then form their opinion based on that.
As I said, size matters, but the perceptions people have about big companies are always related to size rather than its values. We focus on our values, we don’t worry about being big or small.