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10 Tips and Tools To Look Like a Big Company (Even if You’re Not)

10 Tips and Tools To Look Like a Big Company (Even if You’re Not)

Let’s face it, if you’re a sole-proprietor business owner, or a freelancer operating on your own then, inevitably, some clients will not take you seriously just because.

In the 21st century, it seems that every other person has some kind of a business going. This makes the fact of being an entrepreneur not enough to make you look like a true pro anymore—even though you surely are one.

So, let’s even the playing field a bit and introduce some (sometimes tricky) methods and tools that you can use to make yourself look like a big deal.

Being the ‘front man’ vs. being the only man

To start with, I just want to say that the path I’m going to show you here isn’t about hiding yourself behind a business curtain of sorts. Being the front person of your small business is still cool. More than that, it’s actually a great way to give your business some personality.

On the other hand, if it’s clearly visible that you are not only the front person, but also the only person in your business, then it will always be a disadvantage that can put some clients off.

Let me give you an example of how to utilize a personal brand properly.

neil

    Neil Patel is the front man of QuickSprout. His personality drives the brand, the site, and everything that QuickSprout is. However, none of Neil’s clients or even followers get the impression that he’s alone in business (he’s not). He uses his personal brand effectively, without it impacting the overall appearance of his businesses.

    There are a lot of details that play a part in his case, and not necessarily the ones I’ll be presenting on my list. However, I’m mentioning him just to show you what we’re aiming for as our final goal.

    Onwards!

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    1. Have the right business structure

    This one’s quite obvious, but at the same time, it’s one of the best ways to make yourself not look like a one-man band.

    In short, depending on the country you’re operating from, there surely are different business entities you can use. And while every country has its unique regulations, they tend to be kind of similar on a wider scale.

    For instance, every jurisdiction has a version of the sole proprietorship, which stands for operating on your own as an independent contractor. While it is a good structure to get you started, it does make it obvious that you’re alone in the business. So, if you want to look like a big deal, you have to upgrade as soon as you can afford it.

    The logical next step up is your country’s version of an LLC.

    Then, once you have the right business structure…

    2. Don’t call yourself the CEO

    Nothing, I repeat, nothing screams sole-proprietor business like introducing yourself as the CEO of [Insert Unknown Company Name Here].

    The term CEO sounds good only if it’s followed by a fairly recognizable company name. Everything else works against you. There are two ways out of this, and while I’m not a fan of the first one, I’m listing it anyway just because it’s a fairly popular practice:

    1. Give yourself a mid-management title. For instance, instead of introducing yourself as the CEO, you can be a Director of ____, or a Manager of ____. I’m personally not a fan of this because it’s kind of a lie. After all, you’re suggesting that there’s someone above you in the business structure.
    2. Don’t use a title at all. As simple as this. Introducing yourself as John Smith of [Company Name] is really good enough.

    3. Use Grasshopper

    Traditionally, sole-proprietor businesses don’t use 1-800 numbers, or large phone systems with extensions and various advanced features. Back in the day, this was reserved only for the big guys.

    Not anymore. Grasshopper is a virtual phone system that brings you all that.

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    grasshopper

      The main benefit for you is that you can list a 1-800 number on your site that will greet the caller and then send them over to a specific department based on their tone selection.

      For instance, you can set the x1 extension to be “sales,” x2 to be “support,” and so on.

      4. Use Bidsketch

      Bidsketch is a client proposal tool. In lay terms, this means that you can use it to design, build, manage, and send good-looking client proposals.

      bidsketch

        Bidsketch has many cool features. Just to give you an example, the tool lets you know who viewed your proposals, when, and how much time they spent interacting with them. This is a great (and disguised) feedback mechanism informing you on the quality of your offer.

        Of course, you can still handle proposals the traditional way—by jotting stuff down in Word and then sending it manually via email. But then again…that’s how a sole-proprietor business would do it.

        5. Hire a virtual assistant (VA)

        Now, before you say that you don’t have a budget for that, just give me a chance to explain myself.

        Hiring a VA can still be affordable, but you have to think outside the box—or outside the U.S., to be more precise. For instance, a service called Virtual Staff Finder will help you hire qualified personnel from the Philippines.

        vsf

          How does this make you look like a big deal? Simple: if someone gets an email signed by “John Smith, virtual assistant of Your Name” it will always look good, very good. Apart from making you look good, they will also help you outsource some of the daily tasks you do.

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          6. Start using progress reports

          Clients simply want to know what’s going on with their projects. And while companies have a number of processes set in place to make sure that the client is happy (or at least seems like they’re happy), sole-proprietor businesses usually don’t.

          In the freelancing niche, for example, it’s common for clients to hear from their contractor only two times:

          1. the “negotiating the deal and describing the task at hand” email, and
          2. the “hey, I did the work” email.

          While mid-project communication is not always required, especially if a project is straightforward, it can really do a lot in terms of making you look professional.

          Progress reports are a simple way of handling just that. And the reports themselves don’t have to be anything fancy. You can go with a basic yet good-looking Google document with your logo at the top and a nicely designed list of the things that have already been done and the things that are still left to do. Focus on making it clear and readable.

          7. Use legal-proof contracts

          Contracts are one of the most boring things about being a business owner. But hey, we all need them to operate safely.

          The problem with contracts, though, is that if you’re not an attorney, you don’t have a way to know what a good contract is. And even if you have a good template, you don’t have a possibility to evaluate any changes that your client might have introduced prior to signing their name.

          The 21st century comes to the rescue because as it turns out, there is an affordable solution. Among its many services, Legal Zoom offers Legal Plan Attorneys’ help. Basically, for a monthly fee, you get an attorney to review your business contracts and other legal documents and also help you get them right.

          attorneys

            8. Use social proof and trust elements on your site

            This is what trust elements look like on a website:

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            trust

              Nothing fancy from a technical point of view, right? It’s just a set of company logos and website logos. This is a mind trick, so to speak. What it achieves is it showcases some big names that the business in question has worked with. This proves, to some extent, the business’s credibility in the eyes of every prospective client.

              A very simple yet very effective trick. Of course, making it a lie is out of question. You do need some nice entries in your portfolio to pull it off.

              9. Focus on design

              I’m sorry that I have to say this, but people really do judge the book by its cover. It’s just how things work with humans.

              That’s why nine out of 10 times, you will have a better chance at landing a deal if your solution/website/e-commerce store looks better than the competition’s.

              Don’t worry, though, because the best thing about the internet era we live in today is that good design doesn’t cost much.

              • For logo, flyers, business cards, book covers, and all other stuff like this: use 99designs.
              • For your website: use WordPress and a premium theme (Lifehack is running on WordPress, by the way, so the platform really is powerful).
              • For your e-commerce store: use Shopify.

              10. Use a real-time customer satisfaction solution

              Sounds fancy, right? What I mean is the following. If you’re running an e-commerce store, you will have a number of prospective customers having a multitude of questions about your products. However, if there’s no answer on your site, and no one to provide an answer in an accessible way, you will lose the sale.

              To help you with this, you can use a tool like Zopim. In short, it’s a live chat solution, but that’s an understatement. What it does, is it lets you reach out to your customers at the exact moment when they’re having questions. And if you’re not on your computer, you can set an automatic outreach message and then receive customer follow-up questions via a text message.

              Over to you

              In my opinion, using just two or three tools from the above list will already give you an advantage. Using all 10 will make it really unlikely for your clients or customers to ever think that there might be just one person running the business they’re dealing with.

              But what do you think, have you tested any of these yet?

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              Karol Krol

              Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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              Published on March 20, 2019

              How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

              How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

              Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

              As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

              While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

              What is a Mission Statement?

              Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

              In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

              “Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

              In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

              Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

              While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

              First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

              While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

              While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

              “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

              This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

              What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

              When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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              Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

              When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

              • What we do?
              • How we do it?
              • Whom do we do it for?
              • What value are we bringing?

              Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

              After all, that did check off all the boxes:

              What we do? Provide widgets.

              How we do it? Online.

              Who do we do it for? The consumer.

              What value we bring? The best widgets.

              The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

              Compare that mission statement to this one:

              “We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

              What’s the difference?

              Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

              Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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              You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

              A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

              Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

              1. Keep It Brief

              Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

              You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

              2. Have a Purpose

              A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

              Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

              3. Include a “How”

              Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

              How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

              4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

              This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

              Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

              5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

              It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

              Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

              6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

              Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

              7. Think Long Term

              A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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              8. Get Feedback

              This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

              Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

              9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

              You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

              First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

              And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

              For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

              The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

              It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

              First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

              If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

              Strategic Planning

              A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

              Measuring Performance

              By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

              Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

              Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

              Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

              As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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              Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

              To Hold Management Accountable

              By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

              So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

              If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

              To Serve as an Example

              This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

              After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

              Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

              Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

              Final Thoughts

              Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

              Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

              That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

              By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

              More Resources About Achieving Business Success

              Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
              [2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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