Business and Lies

A question posed regarding how to discuss the size of your customer base when you have few, if any, customers, generated the following response:

A recent consultant I worked with had a clever way of dealing with this… He claimed his clients were the Department of Defense, and the Homeland Security Department. Think anyone can check up on those references? Hah!

You need to get at least 1 customer who is willing to provide a solid reference before you’re able to deal with a customer like that. As for the the ‘how many’ question, you have no obligation to give them solid numbers… go with vague words like ‘several’ or ‘numerous’.

While the second part of the answer is on the edge of acceptability, the first part has no place in a business that intends to be around for a while. Once the lies start rolling, it becomes difficult to stop. Additionally, at some point in time, one of those lies may rear its ugly head, usually at a most inopportune time.

While a methodology in business centered around acting larger than you currently are has come to be an accepted practice, it does not come at the price of lying. Rather, it is from the perspective of having the right mindset for a larger business, if that’s where you’re trying to reach.

In regards to this specific question, then, the appropriate response would be more along the lines of a “small but enthusiastic client-base” which does not specify size, but does admit that it’s not very large. Having one or two clients who would be willing to give you a strong referral can help reinforce this.

However, when you work with clients, you must act larger than you are. That is, the communications must all be extremely professional, follow a process to ensure that any issues are properly handled, and so on. That is, you must act as though you were a company many times your current size, so that the clients will respect you for where you’re going, not where you are today.