Running a small business places great demands on you, demands that you may find difficult to meet unless you have a first-class support network in place. All businesses rely on third-party service providers to a certain extent but new start-ups, with limited financial resources to spend on recruitment and salaries, rely on outside service providers to a much greater degree than global multinationals who can afford to hire their own full-time specialists. If you want to make it through your first year in business and beyond, you will need to have a team of local service providers on whom you can rely completely. How you find and build long-term relationships with such businesses in your part of the country is the topic we are going to discuss in detail in this article. 

Identifying Likely Candidates 

Your first task is to identify those firms in your area that appear to be the best at what they do: those businesses whose products and services seem to be a cut above the rest. Having identified a number of prospects, you can then investigate each one in detail to see if your first impressions were accurate. There are a number of ways in which you can approach the important task of identifying likely candidates for your support network, the most effective of which we have listed below.

  • Making Enquiries Among Business Colleagues, Friends and Relatives – If you are looking for a reliable accountant who charges competitive rates and has plenty of experience, you might like to start by asking any existing business colleagues you have, along with close friends and family. How effective this particular approach turns out to be will depend to a large extent on your existing network of business acquaintances and whether your friends and relatives are the type of people who use commercial services on a regular basis. If results are disappointing, move on to the next approach.
  • Use Online Business Directories – Personal recommendations can be worth their weight in gold, especially when they come from a trusted source such as a close friend or a long-term business acquaintance, but you are almost certainly going to have to cast your net wider in your search for service providers who can support every essential function performed by your company. Reputable business directories such as Thomson Local are a great resource for new start-ups who need to build a support network quickly, with literally thousands of local businesses to choose from in each category.
  • Advertise – When done properly, this can be a very effective way to attract decent service providers who are keen to work with new start-ups but it does have the drawback of placing additional strain on what are probably already severely stretched financial resources. Furthermore, unless you know exactly what you are doing, your advertisements could attract firms that are not capable of providing the high quality services you really need.

Further Investigation 

As mentioned above, once you have compiled a shortlist of local companies that seem to be able to provide the services you require and that, on first impressions, appear to be the best at what they do in your part of the world, you will need to research each candidate in detail. You can do this in one or more of the following ways:

  • Telephone Interviews – The first point of contact when starting any new business relationship is almost always the telephone. Rather than simply asking a few throwaway questions and requesting prices for the services you require when you first get in touch with each candidate on your list, take the opportunity to conduct an in-depth interview. If you found the majority of the prospects on your list in an online business directory, you will already have their full contact details so make good use of them.
  • Face-to-Face Meetings – Whether face-to-face discussions are a viable strategy for whittling down the contenders on your shortlist to a more manageable number will depend on the type of services they provide and how much time you have on your hands. While it is definitely a good idea to hold a formal meeting with anybody who you are thinking of entrusting the maintenance of your corporate accounts to, you may not need to go to such lengths when evaluating potential window cleaners for your commercial premises. For services that require a hands-on approach such as cleaning and building repair work, a trial period is probably the most appropriate way to evaluate the candidates who look to be capable of meeting your needs at an attractive price point.
  • Email Correspondence – When evaluating firms whose services are essentially location independent, such as web designers, online marketing companies, and virtual office assistants, you might like to start off by emailing them a list of questions. This approach takes relatively little time and can reveal interesting facts about the firms you are considering doing business with: how quickly they respond to customer enquiries, whether a senior manager or office junior is tasked with responding to your enquiry, and whether they make a follow-up telephone call. In other words, how keen are they to form a business relationship with you?

Making Your Final Choices 

Once you have researched every firm on your shortlist, you should be in a position to select the best in each category and prepare to sample the quality of their services for real. In the event that your preferred service providers turn out to be rather disappointing in one way or another, you can go back to your original sources (online business directories, friends, relative or business colleagues) and start the whole process from the beginning again. However, if you pay close attention to the details at each stage, you should find that what you are left with is a group of local companies who can support your start-up with competitively priced, professional services and who can help to make your first few months and years in business much easier than they would otherwise be.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...