Learning about how to do business with the big fish, from someone who has been there and done it!

Charles Burt, CEO of environmental consultancy Olive, gave a seminar to the Catalyst tenants sharing his top tips for working successfully with big organisations. Olive works with companies large and small, and as a relatively small business themselves, are well versed in the challenges posed by working as a small entity, with large global organisations. Here are a few of the points Charles brought up about working with the Big Fish!

Big generally views small with some suspicion. Whilst they know they need to take advantage of the increased flexibility, and freedom to innovate that is the key benefit of a small organisation, their natural inclination is to see small as chaotic, financially insecure and high risk. With this in mind, it’s really important to prove from the outset that you are small because it suits you, not because you do not have the resources to grow. It’s good to have people on the team with a solid background in large organisations, so that you truly understand how larger organisations work, and can demonstrate this when bidding for a job that will see you working with the big boys.

Try not to bid for a job you cannot win. If you do not have the skills and resources to do a great job – don’t try and win that job in the first place. It’s tempting to submit a bid, with a view to putting the tools in place when you win the contract, but perception of your business can be affected if the organisation you are pitching to realises that you are flying by the seat of your pants.

Know your strengths, and play to them. If you are selected to work with a large organisation, the chances are that they will have chosen you for a specific skill, or because of the aforementioned flexibility that a small business can offer. Once you know why they chose you, make sure that you focus on delivering what they want. If they like that you’ll drop everything and focus on them in a crisis – or that you can see a project through to completion faster than the speed of sound – make sure you continue to do just that.

As a small business, you have a lot to offer your larger counterparts, so be confident, go all out to win the work, then deliver it in a way that a larger, less agile competitor could never do. Be a personality to them, not just a number. And never forget – You can’t win if you don’t try!