Just how does a small business become a big business?
So how does a small business get bigger, especially when it has been at the same level for years, and can’t seem to break through? The question reminds me of a quote I recently saw by J. Paul Getty, once the world’s richest man: “My formula for success is rise early, work late, and strike oil.”
No, you are not going to strike literal oil; those days are over. But figurative oil, why not? Think about Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Do you think they feel as if they struck oil? You bet. Richard Branson took The Virgin Group from a self-employed, one-man band to a worldwide conglomerate, and you can bet he feels like he struck oil, too.
In fact, every company on the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ started out as a small business, and there are lessons there to be learned by the self-employed. If they figured out how to go from small to big, so can you. How? Different companies use different methods.
Some of the Best Ways to Go From Small to Big in a Self-Employed Business
1. Find a great partner: Chester Carlson invented his copying machine at home but could not sell it – to anyone. A man named Joe Wilson eventually saw the machine and teamed up with Carlson. Wilson’s company eventually put more than $100 million into R&D, and then renamed the business – from Haloid to Xerox.
When you work alone, as many self-employed business folks do, or even if yours is a small company of, say, eight people or so, there is only so much you can do by yourself. Your institutional knowledge is limited to what it is you do, your reach is similarly limited to your normal channels, and of course your resources are limited. In those cases, growth, while a laudable goal, is often one that can also understandably be out of reach.
So what do you do?
EVERY COMPANY ON THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE OR THE NASDAQ STARTED OUT AS A SMALL BUSINESS, AND THERE ARE LESSONS THERE TO BE LEARNED FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED.
Find a partner, that’s what. That is what Chester Carlson did. Partners can bring your freelance business to a whole new level. They have contacts you do not and resources different than yours. They also will have ideas that are new to you and offer unique ways to implement those ideas. The key then is to find strategic partners who offer some synergy: They need what you do and you need what they do. Together, what you can accomplish can be more than what you can do alone.
2. Be first to market: Ed Lowe owned a small factory that made a kiln-dried clay that was supposed to be an industrial absorbent. But it was only when his neighbor came by one day and asked to use some for her cat that Kitty Litter was born. Being first to market also helps you go from small to big.
More Ways for a Self-Employed Business to Get Big
3. Innovate: Bette Naismith was a terrible typist, but a good painter. That is why she would bring small tubes of paint to the bank where she worked to cover up her typos. Playing with various formulas, she eventually invented Liquid Paper at home, on her kitchen table.
Creating a new product or a way of doing things is a tried and true way to grow from small to big. Innovation gives companies what is known as the “first mover’s advantage,” and that in turn allows them to own a new market.
4. Be unique: If you want to take your freelance or independent contractor business to the next level, then one thing you should concentrate more energy on is your X Factor, that is, that one special thing sets you apart and makes you stand out from the crowd.
Think about the small, independent businesses that you like best. Don’t they so something special, unique, different, something out of the ordinary? That is their X factor. Figuring out what your X factor is, and then putting extra effort into it, can go a long way to taking you from small to big.
So the upshot is that there are lots of ways to go from small to big, companies do it all the time. The real trick is to pick a strategy that fits your independent contractor business and your business plan, one with integrity. Do that, and your growth chances are much better.