Recently I was asked by Harry of Burlington, VT: I'm a solopreneur, but I want to make my company appear like a larger entity to the outside world. What can I do?
Below are answers from the Young Entrepreneur Council, a nonprofit organization that provides young entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.
1. Leverage external support and think bigger
Outsource some professional work and make your website, marketing and product, or service look and feel a bit better when highly experienced individuals support you in creating a better business. Also, don't let the facts weigh your business down. Even though you're one individual, act like your business is bigger than it is and never let the fact that you're alone be a negative thing.
2. Build a big brand
The best way I've found to seem bigger and more influential than you are is by building and maintaining a powerful brand. If you, your work, and your opinions are everywhere, the question of how many people you have working for you will likely never come up, and if it does, those asking will be even more impressed that it's just you making such a large impact.
3. Team up with a bigger brand in your niche
One of the best ways I've seen lately is to team up with a bigger player in your business niche and use his credibility and brand to boost yours. One way to do this is to co-host a business challenge together online or in some business event. You could also do a new product/service launch together. End result: Stronger brand, bigger public image.
4. Get an intern
This summer many students are looking for unpaid internships. If you work with a volunteer intern they can answer your phones for you, respond to e-mails and come to pitch meetings with you. You are going to seem like a larger company and you are doing a good deed by giving a younger person work experience.
5. Be proud to be a one-man show
As entrepreneurs we tend to want to appear bigger, but as customers we can't stand big companies. We choose the small service provider who always answers our calls over the megacorp that tortures us with hold music every time. Your customers feel the same way. Instead of hiding that you're a solopreneur, embrace it!
6. Play a bigger game
Make sure you have a professional front for your business: Professional e-mail addresses, professional phone system (Grasshopper) and a professional website/social media front. Then, hire a virtual assistant to act as a gatekeeper between you and the outside world—this is not only good for appearance, it'll help you only focus on the bigger picture items while leaving the minutia to a VA.
7. The first impression
Do everything to make the perfect first impression, you only get one chance. Employee uniforms, 800 number with extensions for different departments (even if they all ring to you) and professional voicemail greeting, a good logo, succinct pitch, firm handshake, nice looking website and more. Picture your company five years from now, then act that part, and do everything possible to grow into that image.
8. Social media
Using social media to interact with your community is a cheap and effective way to appear like a larger company. With the ability to create multiple profiles, you can comment and engage with a community from different viewpoints using a similar brand alignment. If you use social media intelligently, you can easily stretch out the image of your solo project.