You know those magic weight loss pills where you don't have to workout out and you don't have to change your diet? It seems like everyone out there is selling those pills for small business. How do you tell the difference between the same B.S. elevator pitches and those offers that will truly add value to your business?
How many times have you been on your business's social media page and received a message about boosting followers overnight?
How many times have you been sent bank information saying that they have your best interest at heart through their business checking accounts and credit lines?
How many times have you seen an information packet with phrases you've never heard of and data that means nothing to you - and been told that it could be catastrophic for your business if you don't act now?
The answer is a lot! For us too!
There tend to be two ways this story ends... you either invest in a lot of services that don't work or you cling onto your money as tightly as you can because you don't trust anyone!
If we're being honest, there are a lot of companies out there that could add value to your business if you partnered with them. But for every company out there like that, there are a hundred who are out there peddling those weightless pills.
How to Vet Knowledge
How can you possibly know if the company or individual you're talking to is legit if you don't know what they're talking about? It's like hiring for a position you don't know the duties and responsibilities for.
So how can you vet properly without going to school to learn everything about their industry?
1. Google It - There is so much content out there that there will most likely be an article called, "Basic Accounting for Small Businesses - Do You Need to Hire An Accountant?" Look for short articles packed with information so you can get the gist of whether or not they know what they're talking about.
2. Read Reviews - I grow a little skeptical with this because anyone can review and people are more likely to leave reviews for bad experiences than good ones but if you want a starting point, this is a great one to knowing whether or not they have met the expectations of past clients.
3. Is It Too Good to Be True - Be skeptical of anyone offering you overnight success. Audiences take time to grow and relationships take time to build. They may be able to give you the numbers you want but if you have a minimal conversion rate, it probably wasn't worth the money.
4. Consult Your Small Business Community - I have always believed that you should be surrounded by those who bring out the best in you and for me that means surrounding myself with other small business owners who are working hard to achieve their dreams. They may not have dealt with the company directly but maybe they've used a similar service. They would know whether or not it's worth your time or money. If you don't know other small business owners, there are a ton of groups on Facebook or attend a Chamber of Commerce event.
How to Vet Personality
As a small business owner it feels as if every business you partner with becomes a pseudo-employee. So it's doubly important to make sure this distributor or service fits well with your team.
1. Do They Talk About You or Them? - If they discuss your specific business needs and how to help your business address those needs, they're probably worth taking a look at. You want a company that talks about molding their product or service to fit your goals. If they come to you talking about how you'll fit into their business model, you should consider walking away.
2. How Did They Approach You? - We live in a world where the old-school hard sell, isn't what it used to be. Did they come up and slap you in the face with a sales pitch or did they start with a casual conversation about your business? People who are pushy, don't tend to change and if that's not someone you want on your team, you might want to look elsewhere.
3. Do You Like Dealing With Them? - When you see their name pop up on your caller ID do you heavy sigh and roll your eyes or are you excited to pick up the phone? Remember this is someone you're going to have on your team in one way or another so wanting to work them is definitely a must.
Do They Fill A Need?
I'm a planner. I've got schedules and plans and plans for those plans. So naturally, I would advise creating a larger scale plan. Whether that be a sales forecast, a business plan or a marketing plan - having that road map is key in making strategic decisions in who to partner with.
If someone comes to you with a service you're interested in you should always evaluate three things: skills, time and money.
Do You Have the Skills?
A lot of small business owners are getting by. They have someone who kind of knows marketing, kind of knows HR, maybe kind of knows maintenance. And for a lot of companies, that's okay. A lot of businesses may get by but they could truly take their business to the next level if they sought the services of an expert in that area.
"Sure, Sally may be able to make an advertisement in Word, but if we hired Half & Half to design us an eye-catching, modern ad - we could elevate our business to the next level and gather 10x the amount of attention. (Shameless self promotion? Check.)"
Do You Have the Time?
If it's a task you understand and it doesn't take up much time, is it worth the money to bring in an outside contractor? Probably not. By the same token, do you find yourself spending 8-12 hours a week working on your books? Maybe you should consider hiring an accountant.
Your time is valuable. Spend more time working ON your business instead of IN your business!
Do You Have the Money?
This one is easy. They've passed your knowledge vetting, they've promised something they can reasonably deliver. You enjoy the exchange of ideas with the individual you're talking to and you really feel they would add value to your business.
Can you afford it? If the answer is yes, fantastic! You're about to embark in a partnership that I hope takes your business to the next level.
If your answer is no, talk to them about it. Maybe they can scale down their services and break it up into more affordable chunks. A lot of businesses out there are willing to work with you.
Business partnerships can be some of the strongest tools in your toolbox but if you're not careful you may find yourself setting some of your money on fire.
If you're ever on the fence about these value added businesses, send us an email. We'd love to hear about it and maybe connect you to someone else in the small business world who's dealt with something similar. We're all rooting for you!