For the first 20-years of Missing Link’s business, we had a strict* NO ENTREPRENEURS POLICY. We only wanted to deal with large corporations. We were B2B – but really, we were B2(big)B.
Why? Well, running a business is hard enough as it is, a few things that you don’t need are late payers (or non-payers), difficult needy clients, or to be in constant price negotiations.
Now, before you get all upset about this. I’m an entrepreneur. I get it, not all entrepreneurs are hard to deal with as I listed above, but to quote my good friend Howard Mann, “You define your business by what you say no to“. So… we said no to business owners.
Honestly as a fledgling business it was probably the single best decision I made. Here’s a few reasons why (and later, I’ll tell you why we changed our mind around 2017).
1. Corporations have more money to spend.
Corporates have more budget. Yeah, it sounds superficial but there you have it.
2. Corporations don’t spend Money – They Spend Budget
In fact, that’s a lie. People in corporations don’t spend money – they spend budget. And budget is your best friend, you see budget is non-fungible, money is. A budget is an allocated amount of money that is allocated for the problem that you solve. Entrepreneurs on the other hand (generally – last time I’m making this caveat) spend money. And money is fungible. Money is fungible, as an entrepreneur I do find myself weighing every dollar we spend against everywhere else we spend it, “Should we spend that extra money on the staff breakaway, or do we need to put it into our our marketing at this stage?”. You ALWAYS want to deal with people that spend budget.
3. You always get paid. Late.
But you always get paid. When you start dealing with big companies you quickly realize that your payment terms are unimportant, they pay on their terms, at first I fought this until I would complain to my peers, “I hate that my clients pay me late.” to which I’d often get the reply, “at least you get paid.”. When you deal with big firms, you move from having a debtor problem to having a cashflow management one – and once you get on the right side of this you’re actually in good shape. One of the things that kept the ship afloat at the beginning of 2020 was the fact that we had 90 days of invoices still due. Not one of our big clients defaulted.
4. It’s easier to swim downstream
Lots of entrepreneurs I know are happy to work their way up by selling to small firms first and growing their reputation that way – I have bad news for them, swimming downstream is way easier than swimming upstream. It’s always easier to start at the top (it’s also why, when we start dealing with corporations, we enter at the C-Suite). Now, you may say that that’s easier said than done, but I honestly disagree, you just need to reframe the problem you solve (I’ll talk more about how we actually did that in a future reflection). I started Missing Link at 22, by the time I was 25 I was dealing with the CEOs of three of the four largest banks in the country (among others).
5. Corporations look better on your client list
Working with a big client can help you win other big clients (and smaller ones). In fact, after a while you get to the point that the big clients in your category start feeling left out. Your businesses reputation is as small as the size of your biggest clients.
6. Corporations are easier to deal with
In our field at least there is less emotional attachment with the work at hand. We have a job to do and provided we do it, we’re all good. If the customer wants unreasonable reverts they are more than happy to pay for them (they have budget for that).
Why the change?
So, why then did we change? Two reasons. The first was that back in 2011 I became a member of EO (Entrepreneurs Organization). A life-changing group of 15 000 members in over 150 countries all with businesses that turnover over a million US dollars. I was speaking all over the world for them, and this Stage Marketing created demand for our work. I also liked and respected this group and their businesses – so we created products like our flagship StorySeller offering that worked for them.
That’s the second point, we shifted from being a service business to a productized-service business. We created structured products with a pre-defined output at a fixed price, it was easy to sell, and more importantly, easier to buy.
“We created structured products with a pre-defined output at a fixed price, it was easy to sell, and more importantly, easier to buy”.
So now we serve corporations and entrepreneurs alike, and it fills my heart with joy – and if I had to do it all over again…. I wouldn’t change a damn thing.
*we also have the 10% rule, but more on that soon.