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Why Small Companies Win

September 29, 2009


Sherry Hess is vice president of marketing at AWR, bringing with her more than 15 years of EDA experience in domestic and international sales, marketing, support, and managerial expertise. For the majority of her career Sherry served in various positions at Ansoft Corporation including director of European operations and later as vice president of marketing. Before joining Ansoft, Sherry spent two years with Intel Corporation, where she worked in the ASIC Group and developed relationships with companies such as Bell Northern Research and Northern Telecom. Sherry holds a BSEE and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

To comment or ask Sherry a question, use the comment link at the bottom of the entry.

Dane Collins, AWR’s CEO, recently sent me a link to a very interesting and timely article in the Harvard Business Journal entitled, 

" Why small companies will win in this economy.” 


Author Peter Bergman points out that in this economy, the gap of confidence between small companies and big ones is growing, and that it seems counter intuitive that smaller companies are winning big deals and gaining market share in a recession when the big guys seem unable to weather the storm. One reason he gives is that, while customers used to rely on the security big companies provided, the collapse of AIG, Lehman, Citibank, GM, Chrysler, etc. has resulted in the belief that it is risky to do business with big companies and the trust isn’t there anymore.


Bergman goes on to say that he's been hearing the same thing from many large clients across industries.  Here’s a replay of a passage I particularly like:

“People in senior positions don't trust the decisions being handed to them. And if you go one layer down, to middle managers, the distrust is palpable. I don't know a single person who works for a large company who feels confident they'll have a job in 6 months. Not one.

Now, imagine you're a client wanting to buy from one of these companies. You call up your client contact to talk about the sale. One of two things will happen:

  1. You have a relationship with her and so you talk and get a sense of her insecurity, fear, and distrust.
  2. You have no relationship with her because the company is so big and you talk to a different person each time you call.

Either way, you'll probably get the sense that your contact may not be there in the future to fulfill her commitments to you. And that won't make you comfortable committing long-term dollars (or any dollars) to the company.”

Says Bergman, “We trust people. And in big companies, it's hard to even find a person to trust as we scream "operator" into our telephones only to get transferred to another menu... That gives small companies a huge advantage.”  "Relying on real people in a company, people who will be there in the long term and not disappear in a layoff is a huge competitive advantage in the current economy.”

Customers are looking for “a CEO who picks up the phone when it rings…Small is the new big. Sustainable is the new growth. Trust is the new competitive advantage.”


OMG.  I’m loving this guy’s analysis!   Let’s take a closer look at his thought threads….


CEO on the first ring?

At AWR, you can call us and Dane our CEO will answer. Heck, he’s dialing the phone to find you and understand your business whether you are a professor at a university, a designer at a big aerospace company, or a colleague at a partnering firm.  And it’s just not about accessibility of the CEO but also that the CEO possesses the ability to understand the customer's problem.  When you talk to someone at your vendor, even the CEO, does he understand how you're using his product?  Does he understand the specific problem you're trying to solve? 

Dane and everyone at AWR are highly accessible and our culture encourages it 24/7. Our customers have grown to appreciate this and I think it is a big reason why AWR is so consistently rated tops in customer service. Never lose touch with your customer, those who use the tool and their perception of it.  Build trust with your customers at all levels of your business and together you’ll both win. 


Small is the new BIG?

Small means nimble, responsive, can do attitude, able to react more quickly. Small companies are not stifled by layers of bureaucracy.  Everyone pitches in to make sure the customer is happy and you never hear “oh, that’s not my job.”  Perhaps smaller is indeed better?  Smaller keeps us all a bit more humble and ever mindful of our reason for being – that’s you, our valued customer.


Sustainable is the new growth?

Our customers, especially in their success stories, consistently name the following as our competitive advantage:

  • ease-of-use (faster to learn)
  • integration with third party tools (far fewer hassles and many more choices)
  • customer support (keeping you productive)

We don’t just sell you a product, we sell you improved productivity, faster time to market, more bang for the buck!   Too often than not, when you're dealing with a big company, they lose sight of what you do, become defocused on your needs or dare I say, view you as just a sideline revenue generating businessL 


Trust is the new competitive advantage?

In our line of business, we really believe we need to be in the trenches with you - helping you with your designs, improving your ability to get things done…not requiring you to reinvent the wheel.   Customers are interested in who is going to help them leverage the benefit of what they're buying over the life of the product, so consistently doing what you say you’re going to do, when you said you would do it and delivering value in each and every new release is critical.   This is what we have done, are doing and will continue to do and excel at to the benefit of the customer.


If “small is the new big,” it’s the silver lining in this cloudy economic environment.  At AWR, we are proud of our ‘smaller’ company size and our focus on providing quality products and excellent customer service.   And thanks to all of you - our customers out there - who have put that trust in us!





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