Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a potential partnership meeting with a large national player in my industry in Sydney. I dragged my best dress out of the closet, found a pair of shoes the dog hadn’t half eaten and boarded a plane at an hour of the day usually reserved for tradies and cabbies finishing the graveyard shift.
This was a big deal for me. I’ve worked hard over the years to be noticed and all of a sudden here was my moment in the sun. It’s the sort of opportunity many of us dream of as soloists but never truly believe can come true.
So there I was in all my soloist glory, sitting in a reception area that was worth more than my entire company.
As I stared at the fancy desk and impressive artworks I started to think.
What the hell am I doing here? Surely this is some kind of weird dream I am having. The kind where I’ll wake up sweating and find myself in my own bed, back in Queensland, with the sound of a snoring husband and snuffling kids to break the silence.
Luckily the assistant appeared and broke my train of thought as they ushered me into their meeting room, a beautiful corner office in the heart of Sydney CBD. I looked out the window to see corporate high flyers and mail room lackeys alike jockeying for position at the traffic lights, hurrying to get somewhere so they could hurry back to whatever it is they were supposed to be doing.
With sweaty palms and my leg twitching again I started to tell myself that I had no place here and wondered how I’d go getting out of the room without anyone noticing. I couldn’t see a side door I could slip out of and I’m not one for heights so the fire escape was out of the question as well.
Fortunately, the CEO entered the room at that moment and I was trapped.
I could barely get a word out I was so nervous.
What if they asked a question I didn’t know the answer to?
What if they thought I didn’t have the hustle to make the deal work?
What if they simply stole my ideas and then used their fat corporate wallets to develop and implement it?
What if I had spilt food on my jacket during lunch and didn’t noticed it the ten times I had gone to the toilet prior to this moment (oh that’s right… I was too nervous to eat. Phew).
Once the meeting started and my pulse rate dropped to a healthier level, I noticed something was askew.
They were pitching me.
I couldn’t get a word in while they tried to convince me why I should partner with them and how I fit into their bullish growth plans. What the…? I quickly switched into question asking mode, digging into their plans for the future, problems with their market and almost feeling like I was interrogating a star witness. I wasn’t going to partner with just anyone after all!
I soon realised that no matter how many staff they had, how impressive their budget was or how cool their staff kitchen looked with the ping pong table in centre of it, every soloist has something that’s invaluable to the big boys in town: that soloist’s unique experience and intellectual property.
Yes, little old me had the most valuable possession in that meeting – a proven, profitable, game-changing solution to their problem. And that, my friend, is all a soloist needs. You don’t need a wad of working capital, an established team or even a proven track record or profits and market share.
All you need is a solution to a problem that, once solved, could unlock more earnings for a partner company, saving them time to develop, test and get approval for their own solution. With minimum risk I could actually make a sizeable contribution to their revenue stream, all with very little effort on their part.
Sure they could use their 100 plus staff to develop what I already offer but why the heck would they? Here I come with a turnkey solution all wrapped up on a shiny, silver platter.
As soloists we often think we can’t compete on the big stage. We go to sleep each night with self-sabotaging limiting beliefs, convincing ourselves that “somebody else would have thought of it if it was really such a great solution”. We think we just need to wait patiently for success to come to us.
But the irony is, I may have an office that overlooks a veggie patch, and rush hour for me isn’t about dodging cyclists and suits but simply getting the kids on the bus on time while still in my pjs. But ‘little old me’ is now in a position to provide genuine value to a company much, much larger than mine.
That’s something to ponder as I head off to boil the jug and put the dog outside.
Do you think big? Is it time for you to think bigger?