While face-to-face connections are an essential part of running a successful business, they don’t always make sense for the budget-conscious start-up. The key is to balance who you build a relationship with, and to what degree.
For the CEO of a large corporation, flying out of state for an initial sales meeting might seem like a good bet. Start-ups, on the other hand, need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of such expenses because every cost needs to be accounted for.
Accounting for every cost means carefully considering travel expenses. An out of state trip, including hotel, food and the recommended wining and dining of your client, can run upwards of $3,000. If you decide the trip is worth it, however, you can find good deals on flights and hotels. Being flexible about when you travel will save you hundreds if you book ahead of time and travel off season. Alternatives to hotels, such as Airbnb and HomeAway, can trim expenses significantly. Also remember to redeem any points from rewards programs or associations you’re a member off.
Value is in building relationships
Working for a start-up has given me a close view of the limitations and benefits. The other day, I overheard my CEO, Adam Broadway, mention how an out of state client was insistent about meeting in person. He sensed that it was too early to make travel arrangements.
“For me, it would be unwise and premature as a start-up since it’s a $3,000 meeting,” he says. “So instead, we had a telephone conversation which was high-value for both of us. The most important value is in the relationship.”
Technological advances in how we communicate make it simpler than ever to build and maintain relationships, developed over time through email, teleconference calls and old fashioned phone calls. These forms of communication are a cost-effective way for start-ups to engage with partners and clients alike.
It is possible to create a similar effect to in person communication if you offer clients value out of the call or email exchange. Value being that the person walks away with a positive outlook on who you are as a company and will consider doing business, and refer others to you in the future. These efforts allow trust to develop over time, making an in-person meeting all the more significant when it does occur.
The People Factor
A staff of fewer than 25 people means everybody is essential for the day-to-day operations of a start-up. Even small meetings, when you consider each person’s salary, is an expense.
That’s the wrong way to look at it, says Broadway, as people get to showcase their work and get rallied up. You can’t put a dollar sign on meetings that invigorate the whole team. Although virtual meetings are not a substitute for face-to-face ones, if used effectively, they complement in person connections and offer added value for both parties involved.
Technology makes it easier for people to communicate remotely, and is an essential tool for start-ups looking to build relationships in a cost-effective way. The key is to make every meeting count because time is money, especially for budget-conscious start-ups who want to stay afloat. But when that time is spent on building relationships, the most important factor of running a start-up or any business, that time is well spent.