Book review: Small Business for Big Thinkers

Back in the late 1990s, a client gave me a fantastic referral to Fleet Bank, which at the time was one of the largest banks in New England. Fleet wanted to run a series of advertorials in the Boston Globe touting their community service efforts. My client ran the Boston Ad Club at the time, and when she heard from Fleet’s marketing people that they were undertaking this effort, she recommended me. So that’s how I, a freelance writer with zero contacts at Fleet, got on the radar screen of the marketers at one of Boston’s largest financial institutions.

The work was very enjoyable; it’s always rewarding to see something you’re written published in a major newspaper. Of course, in this case Fleet paid for the space for the advertorials so I couldn’t let my ego get too inflated. But, more importantly, the assignment was quite lucrative since I charged 50% higher than my normal rate. I could do this knowing that the ad and PR firms that Fleet normally worked with were charging far more than I usually did. Neither did I have to worry about getting paid on time; banks are possibly the most reliable payers around.

I bring this story up now because I’ve just read a book that tells small business owners how to go after business with big companies –– potential customers that you may have thought would be too big to be interested in working with your small business. The book is Small Business for Big Thinkers: Unconventional Strategies to Connect With and Win Big Business by Cynthia Kay, and I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Kay runs a communications company in Michigan and knows whereof she speaks when she says small businesses can have great success in finding work with large corporations. The foreword to her book is written by Brian Walker, president and CEO of Herman Miller, Inc., a long-time client of Cynthia Kay and Company. Herman Miller is only one of numerous large corporations that Kay’s company has landed as clients.

In the book, Kay shares strategies small companies can use to successfully team up with the big guys. As she points out – and as has been my personal experience – many big companies appreciate the new ideas, agility and value small businesses bring to the table. This is something many small business owners don’t realize, and this lack of knowledge about what big companies really want in their vendors can hold you back from going after business that could easily be yours if you apply Kay’s strategies.

Having worked with several large corporations before I started freelancing, I wasn’t intimidated about walking into Fleet Bank to pitch myself to their marketing staff. But I have noticed that small business owners without a corporate background often are reluctant to pursue big prospects. If you’re in that group, you should definitely read Cynthia Kay’s book; it will help you realize that you have a lot to offer big business and big business also has a lot to offer you in terms of helping you grow your company. And if you’re not intimidated by going after a large client, you should still read her book to learn new strategies that will increase your chances of success in landing large clients.

Small Business for Big Thinkers is available on and

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