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Grow Without Growing Pains

From outsourcing to renting conference space as needed, create a big-biz feel for your small biz.

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Many home based entrepreneurs struggle against the perception that their is small, maybe too small to effectively serve the majority of consumers. They know image matters. They want to retain their small-business atmosphere while projecting an image that says they're a bigger business. All while staying cost-effective and in control.

If you think a big-business image is the answer for your , there are plenty of ways to create that image.

Your website is a great start. Use "we" in the site's copy to let people know you're not a solo act. Clearly display a toll-free phone number throughout the site and have a live person available at the other end of line. Be sure to list your business's phone hours--you don't want to disappoint callers who otherwise might expect to be able to reach your business at all hours.

Another option is to provide a cell phone number that will always be staffed or use one of the many companies that provide answering services. Many are available on an as-needed basis and provide services like taking messages and orders.

You can also make yourself look big by showcasing your ability to do business with bigger companies. Ask some of your big-name clients to provide testimonials and display a choice quote prominently on your homepage.

Outsource or hire staff to expand your business's areas of expertise. This will add depth to your company and can increase customer satisfaction. Build a team that includes an attorney, an accountant, a bookkeeper and administrative help, and, hire a web designer to keep your website content current and fresh.

Provide a professional environment for meetings with current and potential customers. Many small, home based business owners find themselves meeting for lunch or coffee at a restaurant--but what if a customer asks to meet at your office? Fortunately, there are quick solutions to this problem:

For an a la carte or monthly fee, business centers provide conference rooms and receptionist services for functions such as remote-access and internet tech support. This gives you a professional environment that reflects the image you want to project, and provides staff on a per-use basis.

It's important to be wary of the fine line between looking big and being too big for your britches. Don't set the bar too high--it could break your company and add unnecessary stress as you struggle to maintain your image. By putting together a structure and resources, you can look big and build a strong company while meeting your customers' needs.

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