Home Small Business The Love-Hate Customer Relationship

The Love-Hate Customer Relationship

by Cynthia Kay

It seems that the constant push and pull between large and small businesses is alive and well. I call it a love-hate relationship. I was quoting some recent job figures during a speech and noted that small business created 86% of all new jobs in the country in March when the representative of a large business rolled his eyes. I didn’t even need to ask why. I knew the reason.

Many of my larger business customers are tired of hearing about how small business is “the engine that will propel us out of difficult economic times.” Large businesses also hate that they are often referred to as slow to react, dinosaurs. All I need to say is Blockbuster and most people get the idea.

On the other hand, small business thinks that big businesses get all the breaks. We believe that while many in Washington say they are a friend of small business they don’t do much to lessen the regulatory burdens that keep us from growing. So what is the truth?

The truth is that businesses, large and small, face lots of obstacles but there can be great strength when we work together. I love my big business customers. Yes it can sometimes be frustrating to deal with their complex purchasing systems and reporting procedures. But, they are loyal, provide a consistent stream of great projects for us to work on and they trust us. On the “con” side they do take forever to pay invoices but they eventually do… and I know where to find them if something goes awry. Big businesses also love to work with smaller companies. There are lots of reasons.

We are easy to do business with. We are not likely to have a whole legal staff that wants to negotiate every single point of a contract. We don’t have complicated processes and procedures that have to be researched and adhered to.

We respond quickly. Our organizations are pretty flexible. We can move schedules around, assign people to step-in when needed and we don’t have an 8:00am to 5:00pm mentality. If you need us, we are there, sometimes 24/7. We can change course when needed without having to consult endless gatekeepers. If the scope of a project changes, we adapt. If we need to buy equipment or inventory to accommodate a change, we don’t have to wait to get approvals which might stall the work.

We bring them great new ideas. We love to create new things instead of doing things the way have always been done. We get excited by new challenges. We believe that we can make things happen, so we do. My favorite phrase is “it is doable.” We find ways to pull off even the most difficult projects.

Finally, because we are “lean” we provide a great value and don’t waste their time or money. Small business owners spend their client’s money as if it was their own. I routinely advise my big clients that they are asking me to do something that will cost them money unnecessarily. They appreciate that. Yes, it takes a little work to understand the differences between how large and small organizations work… and there are times when you love or hate your business partner. But, I think it’s worth it and I love my “big” customers.

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