Things Your Business Can Do To Look Like It's Bigger Than It Is
Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t run with the big boys. We all know some of the best work is done by small businesses...
Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t run with the big boys. We all know some of the best work is done by small businesses that can take better care of their clients.
But people tend to be attracted to the shiny objects, and sometimes you need to look like you’re bigger on the inside. Here are 10 tips that won’t break the bank but will help you look like you’re a bigger operation than you are.
Email / Word Processing
You simply must have a custom email address and a full suite of professional applications. Microsoft Office can be a little pricey, though, and Gmail sure is cheap (free is always nice). But if you’re completing an RFP and your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and your competitor is business@AcmeCorp.com, if all things are equal, who do you think is getting the job?
Google Apps are very affordable, especially if you have just a couple of email addresses, and add a highly professional veneer to your business. Add to it the spreadsheets, documents and presentations you can create there in a collaborative setting, and it’s the perfect first step.
Phones in the cloud
There are a ton of VOIP (voice over Internet protocol, i.e., Internet-based) phone services these days. RingCentral and onSip come to mind – basically, ways to wire your business for international phone service without having to deal with traditional phone companies.
Advantages of these sorts of services include the ability to add numbers easily; call overseas employees at no extra cost; the ability to take your phone numbers with you wherever you go; mobile apps; voice mail; everything the traditional companies have, basically, but also portability.
People claim the age of the business card is gone. It’s not. Every meeting I go on, every conference I attend, every networking event I’m at, everyone’s exchanging business cards. They’re so popular that LinkedIn even bought the CardMunch app, which scans in business cards and allows you to send LinkedIn invitations to the people you’ve met.
It’s important to have a card that is simple to read, has all the information on one side (for easy scanning, though your logo/company name is good to have on the back as well), and stands out from the crowd. Buying a box of 500 or 1000 business cards won’t break the bank, either.
Nothing says bush league like a hand-made Excel spreadsheet invoice. There are many online platforms such as Freshbooks and Quickbooks you can use to create professional-looking invoices, RFPs, proposals and other documents.
Upload a logo, input your clients, hook up your PayPal, Google Wallet or other payment platform, and you’ll look professional and bigger than your four walls.
Once you have a couple of employees or contractors, you have to start covering expenses. Even if it’s just yourself, you need to be able to properly document expenses you pay out of your own pocket that should be covered by your company. Apps such as Expensify allow you to document everything easily and have all receipts filed electronically for your accountant at year’s end.
How often have you tried to set up an appointment with someone and you have an email string that goes back 10 or 12 where you tried to set up a time that worked for both of you? How about those days where you found you have almost every moment booked up, with barely time for coffee, nevermind lunch?
There are a lot of online scheduling programs that allow you to sync up your calendar and set specific times and days when you will accept appointments. This allows you to block off certain days and hours for work so people can’t propose meetings during that time.
You send people to your ScheduleOnce, GenBook or other link, and they find a time that works for them that already works for you. Once they propose a meeting time, you choose whether to approve it and once you do, it’s added to the calendar you’ve synced up.
At some point, you will (hopefully) need a level of customer service that goes beyond you answering the phone, an email or a tweet. But you may not be able to afford a dedicated customer service department.
Platforms such as Zendesk and Get Satisfaction integrate with your website and allow you to capture complaints, questions and other customer service issues, organize them and even answer basic FAQs – escalating the important issues to you so you can deal with actual problems instead of the basics that could be easily answered by someone else.
A simple “LLC” or “Co.” after your business name, or a trademark on your logo can make you seem like a much bigger, more professional operation. Figuring out how to get that done, what kind of corporation to incorporate as, and all the attendant legal details can be completely intimidating to even begin to investigate.
Online services such as LegalZoom can help you figure out what legal steps you need to take, whether or not you should go for an LLC or S Corp, if you’re eligible to register a mark and even just how to draw up a basic contract to protect your bottom line in vendor or client relationships.
Having a professional contract gives those who have financial dealings with you more confidence in you.
About the author:
Tom Chu works at www.PSPrint.com, which is a company specializing in online printing.Tom is passionate about making business owners and entrepreneur's lives easier.