Monday March 10 2014

How small businesses can compete against large companies

By Dorothy M Tuma

Are you a small business owner who eyes the contracts that large companies bid on with envy because you do not believe your firm can effectively compete? Do you think your small business can only cater to other small businesses? Although providers of services like tailoring, accounting, consulting, or security immediately come to mind, this question is also relevant to businesses that provide goods.

Farmers who supply produce to supermarket chains could be an example. If you are a small business owner in the category that avoids competing with large companies, you will be interested to learn of Mac Consultants, a Botswana-based five person accounting firm that successfully competes for large contracts against big names like Price Waterhouse Coopers and Grant Thornton.

Below, are a few areas where Mac and other small firms repeatedly outperform their large firm competitors.
Personal attention
A small firm’s customer is one customer among a few customers. In contrast, the customer of a large firm is one customer among many. Small firms - with fewer if any hierarchical ranks - find it easier to provide their clients with greatly appreciated one-to-one senior level attention. Additionally, smaller firms are better able to build personal relationships with their customers and effectively meet their customers’ specific wants and needs.
Speed of response
The decision making process in a small firm is much simpler than it is in a large firm. Because there are fewer administrative layers to get through in a small firm, a customer will obtain a response to their query or issue much faster than they would with a large firm. The longer list of customers that larger companies serve will lengthen the speed with which they can attend to a customer issue, especially if that particular customer is a relatively small account.
Tailored solutions
Smaller firms tend to be more flexible in providing customer responses or solutions. Rather than offer “one-size-fits-all” solutions, smaller companies are more willing and able to tailor their solutions to meet a customer’s specific needs.
Lower prices
With a much lower headcount than a large company along with smaller offices and lower bills to pay, small firms end up having lower overhead costs than larger firms. This typically allows the smaller firms to offer quality services for a much lower price than a larger company would be able to.

If the above are attributes that your current or potential customers find valuable – and I am pretty sure that they are - make 2014 the year in which you begin competing for the same jobs that the larger consulting firms do. Naturally all the above assumes that you are: a) confident about the quality of your small firm’s services and b) sure that you can deliver them as and when your customer needs them.