As Small Business Week kicks off, we thought it would be a good time to extol the value of collaboration between large and small businesses. For instance, if small businesses are able to make inroads as suppliers to blue chip corporations, the benefits will go both ways. This is true whether you are a traditional small business or one of the many diverse small businesses that represent a significant stratum of future business in the United States. Small businesses have already shown that they can more than double their revenues and add a significant number of jobs after winning just one contract with a large company. For Fortune 500 companies, facilitating the growth of small and minority-owned businesses will help ensure worldwide economic prosperity for all in the next decade.
“The Ten Ps”
Once you set your mind on moving into the large business space, it would be wise to make sure you have what we are calling “The Ten Ps”:
- Patience. A realistic timeline for becoming a supplier to a Fortune 500 company is several years. It takes time to build familiarity and trust.
- Partners. Partnering with a midsize company already on your target company’s preferred provider list is a great way to test the waters. If the partner has a significant international presence, you might want to formalize the relationship to help each other meet the overseas needs of prospective client companies.
- Preparedness. Research companies you may want to target. Analyze their purchasing history and figure out where your product or service might be needed.
- Positioning. Differentiate yourself from your competition. Be able to easily and quickly deliver key messages – verbally and in your collateral material – that set you apart from other small businesses vying for the same contracts.
- People skills. Spend time developing relationships with key contacts within large companies. Attend industry events, respond to corporate blog postings, and network regularly.
- Project-Based Business. Remember that getting your foot in the door with a small project might lead to a long-term contract.
- Promotion. Find ways to get the word out about your sustainability efforts, if appropriate. Leverage sustainable business programs and market yourself as a “green” leader in your industry. Look at opportunities to partner and collaborate with large corporations on synergistic environmental concerns.
- Packaging. Consider “bundling” your contract with another complementary small business and present yourself as a more cost- and time-effective package.
- Pitch. Find the right people to whom you should pitch your product or service and show them how your company can help them do their jobs better.
- Procurement of a certification. It’s important to understand that many Fortune 500 companies have “supplier diversity” programs that specify the use of small and minority-owned businesses for a certain percentage of their contracts. Certifications are available to businesses owned by ethnic minorities; women; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) individuals; veterans; and persons with disabilities. While the process can be time-consuming, there is help available from the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC); the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC); and the Small Business Administration (SBA), all of which offer certification.
Whether you’re a small software developer; a graphic design firm; a food service provider; or a telecommunications company, there are major opportunities for you in the Fortune 500 market. As Edward Roberts of MIT’s Sloan School of Management said 19 years ago in Inc. magazine: Large corporations and small suppliers have a “shared destiny.”[i] The time for that destiny to be realized is now.
As you consider your future, take a look at what big brands are doing at Small Business Week to facilitate small business growth and long-term viability.
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