I’ve been using this tag line of “small business who think big” for just under a year now. I took some time last year to really understand my target audience and focus my work and thought that best defines the clients I want to work with. It seems to be resonating because when potential clients reach out, they often mention how they really like that line and thought it fit them well.
And then they ask me what it means.
Funny, isn’t it, how something can speak to us, but then we wonder if it means the same to us as it was intended? Over lunch last week a new acquaintance asked what I did. I gave her the tagline and she, quite enthusiastically (which I don’t think was feigned), said she really liked that….and then asked me what it meant.
I told her and realized that maybe it would be worth sharing with you. I’ve explained it on the website, but never through the blog, where most of you meet me. So here’s the story.
When this business first began, I hadn’t really defined my target market. I always tell people who ask how I got started to never, ever, start a business like I did. I had no idea what I was doing, did not do any of the conventional things that people tell you to do (like, you know, have an actual plan) and somehow stumbled and fumbled into a growing business.
In the beginning, I would take almost any project. I knew I wanted to focus on small businesses, but that’s about all I knew; and very early on, most small businesses only wanted me to write a handbook or be someone they could call to talk through a termination. All of those things are necessary, but not indicative of businesses who think big. With these clients I would deliver on the service they asked for and then talk to them about other things. For the client who only wanted a handbook, I would ask them what message they wanted the handbook to send. What policies did we absolutely need and what could we leave out. For the business that wanted an employee termination hotline, I would ask them to think about leadership training or better onboarding so that we could maybe come to the place of termination a little less often. And often I would be met with the same response.
“Sabrina, that’s all great, but that’s big business stuff. We are too small to worry about that right now or put any of that in place. It will just change when we grow anyway.”
I would get so frustrated thinking about what they could do. I would try to explain that setting those things up now would be easier than doing it when they were big.
About two years in, I received a call from a potential client for onboarding help. He had 14 employees, but had just received his second round of funding and would be adding nearly 40 more in the coming year. He wanted to get all of the “HR stuff” setup, but most importantly really wanted to talk about onboarding. He felt that he needed to start these 40 employees off right and wanted to establish a process for future growth.
I was in love. In a total, business sense of course.
I decided right then and there that these would be the clients I chose to work with going forward. Not that I wouldn’t write a handbook or be on call for term issues, I still do those things, but I do them with businesses who also care about setting up what have been traditionally held as big business issues, even though they are still small.
Things like onboarding.
I know it’s hard to think about some of this stuff when you are just trying to get a business off the ground, but I firmly believe it’s even harder when that business is grown and some of these things have created themselves – and not in the manner the leader would have intended.
Or worse, you find out way too late that your business is behind the competition and cannot compete for talent because some of these human capital strategy areas weren’t addressed.
So a business who thinks big is a business who realizes, regardless of employee population, they can still think about and focus on advanced human capital concepts. They think about how they want the business to look in five, ten or twenty years when the population size may be double, triple or more and decide what they want things to look like then, and put practices in place now to make sure they do.
They are businesses who realize that regardless of whether they have one employee or 2,000, they are the spirit of the business, the thing that keeps customers coming back for more. They realize it and let that drive their strategy from day one.
Thinking big as a small business means not limiting your actions to the size you are now, but the size you can be.
And those are the small businesses I most want to work with.
Originally posted on Acacia HR Solutions blog.