Small Companies Competing in the Big Leagues

Advice for small companies competing with the big guys.

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Advice for small companies competing with the big guys.

While 98 per cent of B.C. businesses have fewer than 50 employees, the bulk of opportunity resides with the remaining two per cent, which account for two-thirds of B.C.’s GDP. So small businesses looking for opportunities have to lose the DIY vibe and jump into the tank with the big fish. Three experts offer their advice: Rab Kooner, Small Business BC’s business plan advisor; Charles Chang, CEO of Sequel Naturals Ltd.; and Christian Codrington, senior manager of operations for the B.C. Human Resources Management Association.

Create the vibe

Kooner suggests that B2C companies create excitement in their marketplace by sponsoring community events and alerting local media. Chang adds that the public attention not only makes you look bigger, but actually helps you grow your company: “If you have a vibe, people will gravitate to you.”

Get real

Kooner says a lot of small companies will try to look bigger than they are by hiring an outfit that gives them a prestigious address and a phone service, but warns that “by and large most people can see right through that.” Chang, who grew his vitamin-supplement company from one full-time employee to about 70, stresses that being open and honest from the outset will bring its own rewards.

Measure it

Would you drive a car without a gauge showing your fuel, your speed and how high your engine is revving? A dashboard is just as important to driving the success of your business. Chan advises that a business owner will know which metrics are important because “as you grow you’re kind of running around putting out which fire is hottest.” Codrington adds that charting your company’s metrics is not just the responsibility of top management: when everyone sets goals and measures performance, employee ownership of future performance increases.

Engage your staff

“An engaged employee is selling their employer every day to everybody they know,” Chang notes. Chang’s company uses a triple bottom line – evaluating corporate performance through societal and environmental aspects in addition to the traditional monetary yardstick – because this motivates his employees. Codrington points out that when your organization represents something more than just a paycheque, employees become actively engaged in making your company successful.

It’s a contact sport

“The big danger is trying to punch higher than you can,” Kooner explains. “There are companies that are over ambitious but they don’t have a solid foundation, and those are the ones that run into trouble.” For B2B companies, part of being prepared is ensuring you have someone with inside knowledge about your industry – and the contacts to support your growth, he says. For many small companies, this means hiring or outsourcing work to a sales manager so you can appropriately negotiate with the big players. “It’s a much overlooked sales technique,” he adds.