This week I attended the WE Connect workshop which explained how majority women-owned businesses can connect to corporate contracts by becoming certified as a women-owned business.  This initiative has been set up to increase supplier diversity amongst the multinationals and to create a method of giving them assurance that the businesses they may wish to trade with are bona-fide and have the capability to support a corporate contract.  This means that the small businesses have to act like bigger businesses in order to give the corporates confidence in trading with them.

Changing from “I am the business” to “this is a business that I lead”
One of the observations I made at the workshop was the need to help some businesses make the leap from being in the category of “I am the business” to “this is a business that I lead”.  To overcome this gap, business owners need to change their mindset to view the business as an entity that has a structure, a business model that could be scalable, and then use different language to describe it.  When you talk about your business – do you say “I do this” or  “we offer that”?  Even if its just you, by saying “we” can make you appear bigger in the eyes of the customer.

Size matters
Most large companies want peace of mind if they are trading with a small business in order to minimise risks and to ensure they will get the service they want.  For example, if the business is “you” what if you are sick, who delivers the service?  They want to know that if you have associates or employees that they will deliver consistent quality. So they want to know what systems or processes you have in place to make sure this is possible.  This is an investment that many small businesses fail to make in portraying themselves as a larger business.

Tips to help you act like a big business

Some ways that this can be done are:
– creating a strong logo and brand for your business that has a “corporate look”
– using a telephone messaging service to take your calls when you are out
– creating systems for the work you do even if its just you that does it currently, so that the job can be replicable by someone else
– being VAT registered (in the UK) can give an impression of your business being bigger than it might be
– being clear about the business model that delivers revenue – so that you know the business does not just rely on you – but can be scalable
– create policies for your business (health and safety, environmental, diversity etc) because if you tender for any government or corporate contracts they will want to know these things).
– consider the language that you use to describe your business, do you make it sound big or small?

– invest in a proper domain name for your business

Establish global partners
If you want to change your focus from a local to a global perspective think about finding some global partners to work with.  You might find that there are some great companies in other countries offering complementary services or products that you could partner with to get a foot in another market place.  Now that WE Connect has launched in the UK, several women-owned US companies are looking to find out how they can become certified in the UK, so if those companies can think globally why can’t you?  A similar certification process already exists in the US and is called WBENC.