Helen Yu & How Small Startups Can Land Big Contracts

Social media blurb: Building partnerships with larger companies to help your startup excel isn’t easy. But we’ve got a strategy for getting there. By: Kim Folsom This is part three of a three-part series based on a conversation with business strategist and author Helen Yu.  A lot of the companies we work with at Founders First are business-to-business companies. Or even if they’re not, they’re trying to establish relationships with large corporations so they can do business with them. Making those connections and persuading bigger companies to work with you is never easy. But it can be done. You just need patience, perseverance, and a strategy. We covered the strategy in the last part of my conversation with Helen Yu. Getting contracts with larger companies Helen and I talked a lot about engaging with larger companies. A lot of our companies at Founders first are working to build relationships with bigger corporations for partnerships and business arrangements. It’s tough when you’re a small company trying to get noticed amongst the big ones. You have to work at. Do your due diligence. You have to really understand exactly what it is you can offer a larger partner that no one else can. You need to know what you’re good at. And not just what you think you’re good at, but what your customers think you’re good at.    The analogy we used was dancing with an elephant, with the elephant being the larger company you want to do business with. First, you’ve got to know what dances you’re good at and then next go through and understand what type of music, what type of ambiance, what type of location and all of those things. Before you ask them to dance, you’ve got to do some courting by connecting with them, following what their interest is, starting a dialogue.   You’re also not just dancing with an individual. It’s a group with multiple individuals, so you have to understand all those personalities. If you have connections, you have to be able to use them to make introductions. This is something that accelerator programs help with—broadening your sphere of connections.    Ultimately, you have to make the elephant company understand you have some value to exchange with them. You have to understand what business outcome they are trying to achieve. What capability do they need to achieve that? How do they measure success? Once they see you have something that can fulfill on their priorities, you’re closer to getting a deal.    Just remember, it takes time. You’re building relationships. And even if you don’t get what you want as fast you want, those relationships are never wasted. Keep nurturing them. Keep adding to the value you can bring to the larger company.    Play the long game. Helen pointed out that when you finally get to the contract stage, a longer contract is better than a shorter one. “A longer engagement in the SaaS world, particularly, is always better than a shorter one because it gives you more security and more opportunity to prove your value,” Helen said.   Reaching the summit is not the end As entrepreneurs, we all have goals. We’re all striving to meet milestones we’ve set for ourselves, whether that’s to get to $100 million in revenue, an exit strategy that creates generational wealth, or a just creating a sustainable business for yourself and your community. Whatever your milestones are, reaching them is not the end.    “I want to say summiting the mountain is not the end of the journey,” she said. “Really coming down safely with your entire team and celebrating that accomplishment is where we all want to be in the end. So, this means having meaningful interactions with people you work with or having fun, enjoying the journey, and never forget the people who make you who you are. That’s so critical. I always say spend some time with family and loved ones because YOLO, You Only Live Once.”   That’s so true. Sage words of advice. No matter what kind of business we’re in, small or large, we have to enjoy the journey. We can never take for granted the gifts we do have in life. And I think even more so during these uncertain times with the ongoing pandemic. We have to be grateful for everything we do have.   It was so great chatting with Helen. Check out her book, Ascend Your Startup, for more. Or if you’re at the stage where you could use help employing some of the principles we talked about here, consider joining one of our accelerator programs at Founders First CDC. Our mission is to accelerate the growth of diverse-led businesses. We offer strategic expansion programs, coaching, and resources to help you grow to $10 million in revenue and beyond.  Kim Folsom is the founder and CEO of Founders First CDC, which has helped accelerate the success of hundreds of small, service-based, business-to-business companies since 2015. Visit our website to learn more.    

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