Building Trust in the Small Business Landscape

Don’t overthink it: Trust remains the greatest currency in business today.

Both UPS and The Hartford spend a lot of time thinking about small businesses. From logistics to insurance — and everything in between — the companies recognize that small businesses are transforming global supply chains and starting to resemble their larger counterparts.

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We brought together two thought leaders to discuss the small business landscape, opportunities on the horizon and why they’re so passionate about these small companies.

Matthew Guffey is Vice President of U.S. Marketing at UPS, where he focuses on solving the most challenging problems for small- and medium- sized businesses while helping them take their business to the next level.

Steve Jones is Chief Marketing Officer of Small Commercial insurance at The Hartford. He spends his days listening to small business owners, learning what makes them tick and then delivering new value for their companies.

Enjoy their chat with Longitudes below:

Longitudes: What are small business owners telling you right now? What matters the most to them?

Guffey: It’s the trust factor. I sat behind the glass (during a focus group survey) and heard approximately 25 small business owners explain what was important to them. Trust continually surfaced throughout the conversation for customers across all industries.

Part of what truly differentiates UPS is the UPS driver. Every day he or she engages with small- and medium-sized business owners, sometimes multiple times a day, giving these small businesses a touch point with UPS and giving us an opportunity to hear directly from them. That exchange has the power to build trust and loyalty.

That’s an important opportunity for us. What really resonated for me is that these business people never referred to them as “their UPS driver.” They always called them by name.

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The exchange with a UPS driver has the power to build trust and loyalty.

Our drivers’ dedication to serving our customers is a true differentiator. It allows these businesses to trust the UPS brand because they trust our drivers.

Jones: You talk about being behind the glass. We live there, too. One thing I’ve noticed about small businesses is that there are universal truths — a lot of it has to do with: How can I hire good people, how can I keep good people?

That is always almost the No. 1 concern.

Longitudes: How does that tie into branding?

Jones: In branding, it’s almost always about doing what you say you’re going to do and coming through when you’re supposed to come through. But you have to know what we stand for.

At The Hartford, we have to work to show we understand small business owners better than anybody else — and that a big 200-year-old insurance company really understands the uniqueness of their business and will insure it the right way.

Longitudes: How do you maintain that trust?

Guffey: I often get asked: Why is UPS so passionate about small and medium businesses? Once upon a time, we were a small business. Our founder Jim Casey took out a $100 loan to build this small business.

We can’t lose sight of where we came from and how we built our business over 100-plus years and what our brand now represents to small and medium businesses. Remember, we are often the face of these companies, representing them when we deliver their product to the end consumer. We are an extension of their brand.

Longitudes: How has e-commerce changed your view of small business?

Jones: I think about e-commerce from a few perspectives. For any service provider, you get more business because e-commerce eliminates the need for formal store front property.

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UPS is passionate about small businesses because once upon a time, we were a small business.

A lot more people can open businesses that are actually shipping goods or creating things without needing a Main Street location.

That’s great for companies like ours because we can serve more businesses. Now, people who have a good idea have more flexibility in how they can create a business. There’s also been a change in how customers want to access and interact with us.

You have to create information that meets the curiosity and research needs of your customers. For example, it’s why we share content with UPS that is applicable to both our audiences. That changes the whole game across the board.

Guffey: We’ve seen how the e-commerce explosion has completely changed the way that many businesses and consumers find each other. We’ve been successful at connecting that buyer and seller.

If we provide the right products and services, we enable small businesses to grow. When they grow, we can grow with them.

When we look at what small and medium businesses can do with e-commerce and how they can compete globally, it really has opened up things from a logistics standpoint.

These businesses can now sell not only on their own website but also across several marketplaces, helping them maximize customer acquisition. However, selling across multiple platforms makes fulfillment of those products very challenging, which is where we step in.

Now the small can act big and gain scale faster with the right strategies. I think that’s an important shift.

Longitudes: How do you deliver new value for small businesses?

Jones: There are 30 million small businesses in the U.S., and roughly 23 million of those don’t have employees. As insurance is concerned, your needs change immediately when you have employees.

So we have to think about the way we build our products for all the insurance coverage across the various sizes and types of business.

Like any product, if you don’t start designing it with the business owner’s needs in mind, you’re going to design something that’s either too big or too small.

Guffey: We want to create products and/or solutions that can enable a small and medium business to meet not just their logistics needs but their other business needs as well.

From their perspective, the solution needs to feel like it was created just for them. That’s where we’re going with our offerings.

We’ve done qualitative and quantitative research to really capture the voice of small-, medium- and even micro-sized businesses.

We owe them solutions that make the complex simple. At the same time, these solutions should enable them to compete against any enterprise company you could name around the world.

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Longitudes: You’ve seen the good and the bad in the small business space. Any tips for how an aspiring entrepreneur can get started?

Guffey: You almost have to begin with the end in mind. Think about these different components to your business and don’t let them become an afterthought.

We offer consultation services to walk you through something as simple as shipping a package outside the United States.

I’d also say engage early with partners. I wouldn’t look for partners who are transactional in nature. I would look for somebody who is passionate about your business.

My recommendation is to think about all those pieces and have high expectations for your partners.

Jones: I’m going to get real small about this. One thing always stands out to me. The small business owners who are the most successful are those who understand that no matter what business they’re in, they’re in the customer service business.

The second part is about the small business owner’s ability to trust and delegate.

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The most successful small business owners understand they’re in the customer service business.

Oftentimes a small business owner is following either an artisanal passion or an entrepreneurial passion, which is why you always hear this: I wear many hats, I’ve got a lot of plates to keep spinning.

What they eventually have to do is pick their spots. There are some things that you need to delegate. That ability to really trust and delegate is important because otherwise you burn out.

Editor’s note: In celebration of National Small Business Week (May 5-11), we invited UPS customers and suppliers to share their entrepreneurial journeys and lessons learned along the way. You can find our most recent small business stories here

Matthew Guffey is the Vice President of U.S. Marketing for UPS. He is responsible for operationalizing the company's U.S. SMB strategies, customer experience and channel strategies.

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Steve Jones is Vice President and CMO of The Hartford’s Small Commercial insurance division. He has worked in insurance marketing for 20 years and has a special family connection to small business ownership.

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