The ad agency I work for is a small company, I even like to refer to us as a micro-company sometimes. I read this article recently in Inc. Magazine (I actually still have an offline subscription to it) titled “Don’t Exaggerate Your Size” by Jason Fried, read it here.
Jason writes about the insecurities of many sole proprietors about the size of their company. He also notes the many negatives that go along with “fibbing” about your company’s size or client list.
This paragraph summarizes my feelings on the subject pretty well:
“(for small firms)…clients who are impressed by scale aren’t the kind of clients you want anyway. Lots of start-up founders dream of working for a big brand, but the truth is, it’s usually pretty crummy work. Instead, find like-minded clients closer to your own size, and grow with them. I can guarantee that you’ll wind up doing more interesting, more challenging work.”
I started this agency back in October of 2002. I only did 3-4 projects in all of 2002 and was completely on my own. I was still employed by another company and I was essentially doing the work on the side (non-competitive work with my other company). It wasn’t until March of 2003 that I was officially, completely on my own. I had one part-time employee and one fairly accessible freelance art director. In January of 2005 I added my first full-time employee and by the end of 2005 I had added a second full-time employee – so that gave us three full-time employees, one part-timer and one free-lancer who was available to us about 15 hours a week.
Now we have eight people on payroll. Four are full-time and four are part-time. Everyone spends some time in the office – one day a month, one day a week or two days a week – but four of us are here every day. I now take great pride in telling people our actual size and in telling them where we came from, who we work with and who we really are. I agree that this is the way to go, but I completely understand how those just getting started feel like they have to fib a little in order to get that next meeting, or a shot at a big project or whatever.
I’ll just say this, you will soon learn that if you have to be someone you aren’t in order to get the work, you won’t enjoy doing the work and it won’t benefit your firm much.