I was selling paper to some of the largest commercial lithographic firms in the city, places having 5 to 15 sales representatives, when we bought our little print shop. In those pre-digital times, large companies had neither the means nor desire to handle smaller print jobs. In shops of that size, low-quantity invitations or letterhead and business card orders were not appreciated because their presses were the wrong size and the hourly rate too steep, but the sales reps still wanted to take care of their best accounts. It was hard to say, “Sorry, large and valuable account, we like the printing we can make money on, but not this small stuff that will end up costing us. We’re not interested in taking the bad with the good.” It was a tough message to present, and the reps knew that if they sent customers away without an option, they could appear unhelpful and might pay for it down the road. What they needed was a place where they could refer this kind of business, a small format print shop that was not a competitor, perhaps owned by someone they knew, who would take big-company care of their clients. That was us. It was like having a 40-person sales force.
We took that lesson with us when we started The Quincy Group. We weren’t interested in the $20,000,000 deals, but we would take deals $2,000,000 and under every day of the week, so we contacted large Seattle M&A firms knowing that most of them had minimums and parameters for putting a business on the market, and struck a deal: Give us the little stuff, and we’ll make that referral worth the few minutes it takes to pass it on.
We urge any small business to consider a scenario like that if your industry allows for it. Not only can you gain business, but you can learn from those who are larger and further up the road than you are.
Here’s another great thing about that: If our large M&A partners appear high above us in a web search for “Seattle business brokers,” it doesn’t worry us, since we’re likely to eventually get that business anyway!
August 26, 2021