The use of the term “enemies” in the title of this article may be too strong. It attempts to capture the notion that some individuals within the Goliath’s organization may either consciously or unconsciously not want you to be successful in forging a relationship with their company. Their intentions really don’t matter, the impact of their actions (stymieing the relationship) is what needs to be avoided.
The most common “enemy” are those individuals that suffer from the “Not Invented Here” syndrome or its related alignment of “Oh, we can do that too.” To be fair, any large company can do just about anything. All it takes is the commitment and dedication of the required resources. Small companies, especially new companies, also face similar decisions. It is summarized as the “should versus could” decision dilemma. Although something could be done, the question that needs to be resolved is should it be done; is it the best use of resources? When this issue is raised, instead of being defensive, respond with “Of course, you can do this. But is it the best use of your time and resources?”
Another common enemy are the staff people who are interested in learning all they can from you with no real intention or ability to solidify a relationship. The article, 5.030304, “Tire Kickers Can Cause Flats”, discusses the impacts of working with these individuals. They can rob you of one of your most precious resources: your time. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to differentiate tire kickers from individuals that are genuinely trying to learn how the two companies can work together. After patient and detailed discussions, press these individuals for definitive next steps and movement up and across the corporate maze. Nicely, but insist on the presence of a business person in the meeting.
Competitive Spies can be anywhere. Again, the word “spies” is probably too strong, but some individuals within a Goliath may have an allegiance to one of your direct competitors. Differentiate between allegiance and the need for objective comparisons between you and other similar companies. Expect and encourage comparisons early before excessive time and effort is spent. Focus your discussions on what you do and not how you do it. Keep your know-how and trade secrets secret. Also, assume that any presentations or written material will be in your competitor’s hands within twenty-four hours. This may not occur but do not take a chance. NDAs and promises simply are not adequate protection.
Playing the field and working with multiple similar companies is a viable strategy and is often the default position taken. By selecting you, Goliaths may think that they are de-selecting everyone else. That may, in fact, be exactly the case. Think of a couple announcing their engagement to one another. Essentially, they are declaring themselves “out of the dating game”. A Goliath may simply not be ready for a dedicated relationship. Openly discuss both parties’ intentions early in the discussion. An open, non-exclusive relationship may, in fact, be in both parties’ best interest.
Is your timing their timing? Elapsed time is not really an enemy; unfortunately, it is simply a fact of life. For small companies, solidifying a deal with a Goliath may be first and foremost on their mind. However, for a Goliath with an on-going successful business, forming a relationship with a small company may simply not be very high on their priority list. Creating a sense of urgency in terms of lost revenue opportunities is one of the few techniques that can be used to move up the priority list. As frustrating as this is, use the following coping mechanism to get through those frustrating periods: “Most people are empowered to say ‘no’ while only a few are empowered to say ‘yes’, and they are always in meetings!” This statement won’t resolve the issue but may help you avoid pushing too hard and getting a knee-jerk “no” response.
For all of the scenarios listed above, plus the many more “enemies” that can occur, play out what-if scenarios to determine what you could do to avoid the situation before it occurs. Keep in mind that you cannot control others; you can only control how you react to them and events.