If you are trying to convince big-company executives that you're big enough for them to do business with, consider speaking their language -- by producing a four-color, glossy annual report.

CEO Gordon Lankton publishes one even though Nypro Inc., his Clinton, Mass., plastic industrial components manufacturer, is privately held. "It puts us in a different category from the job shop down the street," he says. "Big-company executives can relate to it.'

Worried about keeping an open set of books? Lankton has been sharing numbers with customers and suppliers for more than 20 years and claims there has never been a problem.

Funny thing is, Lankton says, it isn't the numbers that get a reader's attention -- it's usually the pictures. Other companies' executives glance through the annual report and see the pretty pictures, but obviously don't read the financials.

"Nypro has conducted a number of acquisitions," says Lankton. "Sometimes we find that the people don't even read the numbers but are impressed that a private company would release them." In Nypro's case, the medium is the message.