Growth businesses dream of winning that big company contract, the huge order from a multinational that can transform their business. Immediate benefits include, of course, a significant boost to turnover. But there are other pluses, such as bringing your services up to the high standards on which blue-chip companies typically insist and the reputational benefit of being seen a key supplier. But how do growing businesses convince larger companies that they can deliver?
My business, Publishing Technology, is an Oxford-based international software company and supplies end-to-end software and services to the global publishing industry. Clients include seven of the top ten international publishing groups, notably, HarperCollins, Hachette and Elsevier.
Thoroughly asses your targets
A thorough audit of the target businesses should be the starting point. Assess their strategies, review their products and services and look for opportunities where your products have the best chance of being embraced. One of the best backdrops is if your target businesses are in the middle of some fundamental change, as that will make them more receptive to new suppliers and fresh services.
Take the world of publishing; our key client sector. It is going through radical change, trying to cope and capitalise on the rapid move from print to digital. We spotted an opportunity to help large publishers with this transition and invested heavily to develop pub2web, a custom hosting solution that supports and delivers all the information publishers need to make available whatever the format or the standards.
Play to your strengths
Growth businesses are nimble, responsive companies that can react far more quickly to changing market dynamics than their larger competitors, so playing to this strength is key. Parallels here will help illuminate my point. Take the UK automotive supply industry, for example. Global car giants, such as Nissan and Tata, have invested heavily in the UK automotive industry, with much of it focused in the Midlands. Niche engineering businesses were quick to notice this shift, and around the plants and factories has arrived a vibrant eco-system of smaller suppliers, which have the fleetness of foot and innovative technology to help these car industry multi-nationals.
Enhance your board
A strong board of non-executive directors, including leading business figures or top entrepreneurs, adds immense credibility and status, leveraging the personal reputation of these business leaders to boost the underlying company’s profile and help it succeed in winning large clients. Our chairman, Martyn Rose, is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, whose presence on the board has helped us win many big business contracts. Also one of our non-exec directors, Mark Rowse, who founded Ingenta (one of the businesses from which Publishing Technology was formed) has been helping us develop our approach to supply our permissions products to global players in the media and TV sectors.
Partner with local experts
It is difficult enough for growth businesses to secure contracts from industry giants in their domestic market, but overseas, and particularly in emerging markets, it is an even greater challenge. To overcome the cultural, legal, commercial and political differences, building a relationship with a local partner makes perfect sense.
We faced these challenges when we decided to establish ourselves in China. We partnered with a local leading academic and publishing professional Helen Sun, who became CEO of our joint venture business in China and thanks in great measure to her skills and expertise, have had great success in the Chinese publishing market.
Ensure first-class delivery
Global blue-chips operate to high standards and often have highly developed procedures and processes in place that growth businesses sometimes struggle to meet. They typically require suppliers to have world-class project management skills and controls and global publishers are no different.
Probably one of the best tactics for growth companies to adopt to address this issue is to team up with implementation partners, recognised for their excellence in this area, which ensures effective deliver of products and services and allows companies to focus on their core expertise.
Act like a leader
As a growth business, acting like a leader helps to build profile in the eyes of potential blue-chip clients. This can come in many forms. Good tactics include seeking opportunities to sit on panels at conferences and with the CEO’s of some of the big companies that are targets to discuss the sector’s big issues. We do our best to ensure our senior managers sit on panels at leading industry gatherings, such as the Beijing, London and Frankfurt Book Fairs.
Another tactic is to publish insightful research on key industry trends, which will capture broad attention, including that of industry leaders.
Winning new business from global groups and blue-chip companies can be challenging, but if growth businesses harness their inherent strengths, smartly approach their target business and intelligent assess opportunities, then they will reap the considerable benefits.
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