Why small businesses should make you think

Let’s hear it for the little guy! Seriously, small businesses are, well, the business. So here’s my take on why it’s a good idea to think big but act small when choosing who’s going to fix your boiler, install broadband at your office, replace your car exhaust, unblock your drain, mend your leaking roof, provide mobile phone coverage…

Trust in small businesses?

I can count on one hand the number of businesses I can rely on. Let me clarify what I mean — I want to be able to call them, speak to someone who actually knows what they’re doing, and get a straight answer, with some novel lateral thinking thrown in for good measure. As soon as you apply that kind of criteria to the broader swathe of businesses out there, you find yourself clearing the field of candidate businesses very, very quickly.

Arguably more importantly, how many businesses can you really, genuinely trust? And that’s the thing — trust is an invaluable quality you can neither beg, steal or borrow, or buy for that matter.

The biggest problem will small businesses is their lack of scale; they can’t service a huge number of clients. But what small businesses can do is provide an excellent personal service. It’s this attention to detail and the attention to the customer that makes dealing with small businesses so appealing to me. In fact, I often go out of my way to find the equivalent small business, who provides a service I require, even if they charge more.

A word or two about why small businesses are fantastic!

So what makes small businesses better than big businesses? Well, first of all, let’s define what I mean by big business — here I’m thinking about the likes of Orange, British Telecom, British Gas et cetera. Let’s look at what makes small business so good, by way of the words we all love to hear:

  1. “Yeah, I can do that!” Knowing they really do know what they’re doing and not having to worry any longer is just priceless — from Lynne Foster of PoLR, an internet marketing agency based in Glasgow, Scotland.
  2. “Oh, that sounds like the [insert name of broken gizmo here]. Yeah, I can sort that out for you.” You often deal with a decision maker; someone capable of handling your request in a meaningful way. They thrill you with their instant insight, and you know they know what they’re doing.
  3. “Go on, call it a tenner”. You walk away with a smile on your face, they get cash in hand, everyone is happy. And you remember them all the more for your dealings with them.
  4. “Well, if you pop in right now, we can fit you in!” The sheer convenience of ad hoc arrangements, without having to wait days or even weeks is just bliss, which means you can get on with your life.
  5. “Yeah, I saw the problem earlier. I’m working on a fix right now.” Getting the right level of support can be a monumental challenge. Being able to speak to the very people dealing with the problems you encounter, and being reasonably certain they’re already fixing those problems fills you with a certain warmth.
  6. “What’s your deadline?” Having some demonstration of their awareness and ability to plan is also a good indicator — from internet marketeer Nikki Pilkington.
  7. “Sorry, I can’t do that, because…” Maybe they don’t have the time, or they simply don’t have the necessary skills. Either way, they’re being honest, which allows you time to move on and find someone else. You’d be surprised just how empowering say “no” can be.

And here’s some more thoughts from the world wide web:

“I need my suppliers to be honest and do what they say they’ll do. If they’re nice too, so much the better!” — Rob Griggs-Taylor.

“”Yes sir, you are right. I will get that done immediately, free of charge” Is my favourite response.” — Steve Williams, IT security expert.

Conclusion

As a small business owner, I’m passionate about my business, Octane, by default — if I’m not passionate, who the hell else will be? And so it goes that many similar small business owners make their businesses passionately personal and personable.

We don’t have the luxury of shrugging our shoulders as customer number 77,596 walks away in a huff because we didn’t give them the service they expected. Instead, we work damn hard for all our clients and customers because our reputation and, by natural extension, our livelihoods rely on this attention to detail.

So when you’re thinking of renewing a service contract, or buying something and you’re planning big, try thinking small for a change.