You can’t get big without thinking big right from the start. As an entrepreneur starting a business, it’s easy to see yourself as “the little guy.” If you do, you’ll forever stay the little guy.
Too many times I’ve seen entrepreneurs name their companies after themselves (e.g., Tom Jones, LLC). Sometimes they stretch to seem bigger (e.g., The Tom Jones Group). Sometimes it’s a “creative” stretch (e.g., TJG Strategies – like we’re too dumb to figure that out?). Unfortunately all of those names are transparent and smack of small thinking.
The impact of small thinking is you’ll never get the big opportunities. As a B2B company, you’re looking to land the whales – those huge companies who will buy massive amounts of your products or services. If they get the sense that you’re small, they’re not going to give you a chance to serve them because they worry about supply disruptions, financial strength, and your ability to meet their gigantic needs. This is one of the reasons I went with thoughtLEADERS from the start rather than “The Mike Figliuolo Group.” A corporation is much more willing to work with another corporation than they are to work with an individual.
Fortunately, the answer to this problem is quite simple.
Get out of the pond and into the ocean.
Think and act bigger than you are. Name your company after something you aspire to be – not something you presently are. Be audacious in your vision. For thoughtLEADERS, our name has staked out a position for us in the marketplace. We’ve declared who we are and what we stand for. Our tag line says exactly what we do (“Leadership, Communications, Strategy, and Operations Taught by Dynamic Practitioners”). When we first started, our offerings and ability to deliver them were limited by my personal bandwidth. Over time, since I was acting bigger than we were, I added instructors and programs to fulfill the promise of delivering on that broader spectrum of course offerings.
In recent years, I’ve laid out an even bolder vision of what we’re building: “A global firm of uniquely-skilled executives who teach managers around the world how to be great leaders.” That’s a pretty big and bold vision of what we’re building but that mindset helps us identify and pursue opportunities we might otherwise miss.
There have been plenty of occasions where a whale has asked us if we could support something big they were thinking about and our answer has been “absolutely.” After the call where the request was made, we get together and quickly problem solve how we would actually fulfill the request. Sometimes it’s really easy to figure out how to fulfill a request and other times we’ve had to get really creative in building a solution. The thing is, if we hadn’t said yes in the first place, we wouldn’t have generated the ideas for the solution. Once we generated the solution, we had built a new capability for our firm. Those new capabilities become growth platforms in the future. Those platforms provide a basis for achieving your broader vision.
Act bigger than you are. It pushes your thinking. It creates opportunities. It helps you identify growth areas you might otherwise miss. If you never think and act bigger than you are, you’ll always stay small. So figure out what that bigger vision is. Think about what you can be doing differently and bigger. Identify the things that make you look and act small (and stop doing them). The only way you’ll find and capture those bigger whales and the corresponding opportunities they create is to get yourself out of the pond and into the ocean.