Think Like a Big Company: a Guide to Growth for Small Companies and Entrepreneurs

Company growth has always been one of the most complex business topics.

The main reason is crystal clear: running and growing a small company is by all means extremely challenging.

Challenges often come with a lot of uncertainty too, because the company always seems to be not big enough, not bold enough, not strong enough to properly act the way it should: as an enterprise.

Most of the times it's very easy to justify the tendency to act small because of the company size, but this tendency leads to forget about one important aspect that I'd like you to take into account:

Before being small, any company is first and foremost an enterprise: an organizational structure that must be strategically guided towards its mission and vision.

Today, in this article, we're going to show you how you can stop acting small and start managing your small company as its nature of enterprise require. Hence, you're going to learn how to effectively think like a big corporation and grow your company the smart way.

Company  Growth, Step #1:

Don't fall into the 'how many' trap: design the structure of your organisation

Let's start this off with an uncomfortable truth:

your prospects would love you to have a team of 50 people ready to manage their incoming business and satisfy any absurd request at all hours.

But, it's not like they're even going to reach out to all 50 employees, even in the case you had them. Therefore, the situation is a lot more subtle than that: deep down, they don't really care about the number of your employees, they just want to know you are a serious company with a serious structure.

And let us tell you: they're not to blame at all, they have any right to expect that. Therefore, even if your team is a lot smaller than 50 people, you must make sure you set up for them a clear, precise and not questionable structure.

Follow along these steps to achieve a well defined structure in less time than you think:

Write down the list of functions you'd need to have covered in the company

How would you want your organization to look like if you were a prospect of yours?

Don't get too carried away though: having a person to be in charge of serving coffee might sound fancy but you'll need to save that for when you'll become the next Microsoft.

For the time being, stick to essential, non-negotiable functions.

Assign anyone in your team one specific function

If you don't have enough people to cover all the functions that you listed, select some team members that can handle two at the same time.

Drop personal e-mails in favour of department e-mails

Personal e-mails have one big advantage: they give the feeling of actually writing to a human being instead of writing to a general, cold department name.

Having a personal address such as firstname.lastname@company.com creates an illusion of proximity for the people who are going to use the address to get in touch with the company.

However, small realities might want to consider skipping this big advantage and focusing on building structure for their company.

Giving an employee a personal address and having them using it for several different functions simply doesn't work well: it's like screaming out to the world that you're too few in the company, which may also be read as not being financially strong enough to afford a certain number of employees.

Instead, if you keep things neutral and set up addresses for any relevant function that you highlight, you'll be spreading your points of contact into essential areas that any company should have.

Yes, it's less intimate but more efficient when it comes to smaller teams.

Remember that being a small team it's not something you should hide but at the same time it's not something that should generate a bad impact on the quality of your interactions with prospects, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Company  Growth, Step #2:

Stakeholders hide everywhere: build a knowledge base to follow during any contact with the world

Big Companies are more often than not based on a very wide range of corporate policies: they tend to have a policy for everything and in particular they tend to set standard rules for anyone to follow when it comes to getting in touch with stakeholders of any sort.

And that's because they know the secret rule of stakeholders: they hide everywhere.

Behind this statement, there's a very logical and reasonable concept:

Each person that gets in touch with the company may turn out to be an interesting find, directly or indirectly. It may be your next most strategic supplier or your next bigger account, or even just someone who may go out into the world and talk to other people about your company. Either way, the impression they get about you, your team and your company as a whole had better be good.

The good news is that, in order to regulate the interactions between your company and the world, there's no need for you to craft a hundred policies. In fact, there's a more effective solution that turns out to be a much better fit for small firms and entrepreneurial companies.

It's called:

The Knowledge Base

The Knowledge Base is a set of predefined guidelines that anyone in your company must be aware of and must use everytime a proper occasion occurs.

Those guidelines are crafted to standardise some common interactions, in order to create consistency and reinfornce key concepts, key values and key information about your company.

Let's see a very simple example:

Has it ever happened to your team to get in touch by phone, email or in person with someone who asked what is your company about?

Well, in those occasions, without a specific Knowledge Base, any team member is very likely to give a different answer.

Statistics say that the average team member not properly instructed by their leader will express their answer in a way that may hugely differ from the answer of the next-desk colleague.

They may all be telling a variation of the same reality but they won't be able to express it the way it should be expressed, unless someone gets in charge of developing a unique, apt and well crafted answer.

That unique, apt and well crafted answer is a piece that needs to be included in The Knowledge Base.

In order to set up an efficient Knowledge Base:

  • create a list of any area that needs to be regulated by it
  • find unique answers or procedures for the most common questions and situations that your team is faced with.

Try and think about the questions and situations that you'd like to be approached in a very specific way: those are likely to be key points for your brand new Knowledge Base.

Company  Growth, Step #3:

Shape up your aesthetics: start branding your company like it were the next Coca Coca Hellenic Bottling Company

If you think branding is a matter reserved to big corporations, please allow us to contradict you.

A brand is what puts you out there into the market, and we see no reason why this should be a big companies exclusivity.

General opinion usually associates huge investments with brand creation and brand advertising and this is definitely true when it comes to big, consolidated firms with never ending budget capabilities.

However, thinking like a big company does not equal acting like a big company and reserving a six months income to have a designer craft you a better logo. You can still think like a big company and start caring about your public image and, at the same time, you can act small and take small steps towards it.

First step to consider would be finding an answer to these questions:

  • What message you want your brand to communicate to the market?
  • How could you describe your company in three to five words (common lenght of a slogan)?
  • What problems do you solve for your customers?
  • What's your unique value proposition?
  • What makes you stand out from the competition?

Any company, no matter what size, can find these answers inside its vision, its mission and its every day activities and interactions.

Step two would be investing a little bit into designing these messages.

You'd need a colour scheme and a few templates to use for presentations, brochures and documents.

Any information flow coming from your company and directed to anywhere outside the company should be matching with your brand identity in order to create consistency and reputation.

You may not be able to afford the Coca Cola branding strategist right away, but as you can see you're taking small steps towards results that will pay off greatly in the future.

In terms of resources needed, for executing step one you need to use part of your time availability.

We suggest that you set aside one hour each day for five days, so that you will be able to craft the answers on first day, evaluate and refine them on second day, verify their accuracy on third day, brainstorm them with other members of the team on fourth day and applying finishing touches on day five.

Within five working days you'll have the basis of your branding strategy: a unique and meaninful philosophy that summarise values and relevant features of your company.

For step number two, you may decide not to invest your time or the time of employees and in this case you will outsource the creation of marketing material.

This choice is advisable in order to obtain professional results but we would suggest not to invest big funds in this: branding is not a single action, it is a process, so before investing great amounts upfront it's better to proceed in steps and see how everything works out.

In case in this moment you can't afford any fund for marketing material, you may want to try crafting inside the company a few of the most used pieces such as letter layout and company profile.

Printing the material is nowhere near as expensive as having the graphics created, so you may want to create the graphics inside your company and then have a professional printing them out in small batches.

Conclusions and TakeAways

The first thing we'd like you to retain from this article is the concept that

being small doesn't justify thinking small.

Your company exists and it's an enterprise under any perspective, so you should start approaching it the way it deserves.

Secondly, you should implement a few changes that will result in great improvements:

  • Design the structure of your organisation.
  • Build a Knowledge Base and make it mandatory for anyone in your company.
  • Start caring about your brand now, because sooner or later it will be a valuable asset.

If you feel like diving deeper into this topic, there's this very detailed articles published by the Hardvard Business review which would be a great read: The Five Stages of Small Business Growth.

Where do you intend to start from? Which of these steps fuel your energy and make you feel ready to grow your small company? Feel free to drop us an e-mail at hello@intelness.com to share your take on this.

Time to Read:

5 min