How Credible Is Your Organization? Are You a Yahoo?

The term “yahoo” used to refer to someone of a less-than-refined nature or, in other words, someone who was still rough around the edges and wasn’t quite ready. For companies in the modern era of technology, where domain names and the ability to get the a page parked that says “Web site under construction” (or even a basic Web site created from a template) up and running for a relatively small investment, using a free e-mail service for or a non-business domain may be sign of being either behind the times or a bit of a “yahoo.” Where is your credibility in starting your business if you haven’t begun operating even at the virtual level of using your own business domain for e-mail?

Projecting the Image of a Business Entity

There is nothing wrong with being a virtual company, and it is in fact a wise way to preserve capital for many early stage and established companies who aren’t facilities dependent. Being an entity—virtual or physical—has more to do with operational action, image, and perception inside and outside than it does with physical facilities. It is the ties that bind the organization into an identity that creates the entity culture, image, and “physicality” more than a physical location. A physical location can certainly facilitate the process of building the ties, but physicality alone does not create a cohesive organization.

When you first make contact with someone, it is usually a personal connection at a meeting or an event. You then exchange contact information, usually a business card. You’ve told the person (hopefully) about this wonderful organization you are a part of. He or she takes your business card and looks at your information …VP of Technology of Supernano Innovation Green Products International Inc. and sees: no Web site, and that you have an e-mail address of [email protected]m. In the age of low-cost domain registrations and the ability to use a template to put up the most basic of Web sites and start e-mail service, what are you saying when you don’t take that step? Are you saying you don’t have confidence in your business? Are you saying you aren’t Internet aware and savvy? Are you saying that you just don’t know about these business basics? Are you saying all of the above and more?

Many businesses, especially service-oriented businesses, are started in response to opportunity and often necessity of the founders’ particular economic situations. Because businesses can be started from a host of motivations, it becomes even more important to focus on demonstrating the credibility of the organization through investment in the basics of the business entity, which include the business’ domain name, Web site, and e-mail addresses. You can’t be a “yahoo” for long and project a level of credibility … that the business is going to be in existence and a going concern … that it isn’t a stopgap operation until something better comes along (like a job offer). It may seem to be a small thing, but it is a small thing that can have a big impact on perception. If you won’t do the small things related to establishing the business, it begs the question of commitment and consequently credibility.

Image: Virtual and Reality

It is important to invest your resources wisely when establishing the business, both its image and infrastructure. A challenging question to answer is “Exactly where do I put my investment?” The answer can make or break an early stage company. You can set up virtual shop with your Web site and e-mail addresses in a matter of a few hours and with a few hundred dollars. Other aspects of the business can—and do—require more thought and analysis, such as “Where do I set up physical operations? Buy or lease? How much space? Where? When?”

Some businesses by their nature must acquire physical space to operate in. They must immediately find office, lab, or manufacturing space to set up operations. Others have more options; these businesses may be able to be “virtual,” home-based, shared offices, multi-location, outsourced, and combinations of all of the above. Whether the needs of the business are traditional space or virtually unlimited depends upon the nature of the business, the substance of the market offering, and the image the business needs to project.

The reality is that for some industries and customer segments a physical location is mandatory. For other types of business it doesn’t matter where you are or where you are doing business, as long as you get it done. For instance, a business that is virtual and globally operating through technology but has a residential mailing address is for many still perceived as a home-based business. But that isn’t the case; the mail just happens to get delivered residentially. One suggestion is to have the mail delivered to another business that provides “an official street address and secure mail drop services” and the business may no longer be perceived as “home-based.” It’s the same business, same operations, but with different perceptions. How much it matters truly depends upon the perceptions of the customer and your market.

Credibility comes down to the subtleties and the necessities of how you do business. It is about the content and the deliver of the product. However, before you can get the opportunity to provide the product or service, your prospect has to be convinced you are a “real” business. Building your credibility requires attention to the details. Details as simple and as complex as whether or not your e-mail indicates you are willing to invest in being in business by having your own domain name and Web site. Welcome to the age of technology and tradition; you need to be in both the virtual world (Web sites and e-mail addresses) and the real world (physical addresses and locations). Credibility and success comes from establishing the right elements to demonstrate the reality of your business from day one.

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