When you think about it, the actual, honest goal of every small business is to become big. Growing means succeeding and growing means making more money. You can be as idealistic as you want, but at the core of every business is the wish to make as much money as possible.
The logical progression of this is that small-to-medium businesses have plenty to learn from the companies they strive to become the biggest players. It is actually quite surprising when you learn that most small business owners do not even consider going to big companies for lessons to learn.
Today, we will try and identify a few of the most important lessons SME owners can learn from the big players.
1. Plan Long Term
The nature of the small business ecosystem is such that most owners do not have the luxury to take the big picture into consideration and to strategize years ahead. They are barely able to keep their new company afloat and profitable enough. That being said, basing your entire operation on day-to-day survival is a practice that will sooner or later put you in front of an all but impossible obstacle to overcome.
To avoid this, small business owners should have at least some kind of a strategic plan, a goal their business is directed towards. One of the most important things this does for a small business is that it brings enhanced focus to everyday operation since there is a common goal everything is leading to.
2. Keep It Lean
The whole concept of "lean" as a way of running a business with minimal amounts of waste and non-crucial actions being made was more or less invented and put to practice by Toyota, a company that used this principle to grow into one of world's biggest companies.
It is definitely a principle to be employed by small businesses who are often pushed to lean due to financial constraints but which start spending money left and right once they start doing a bit better. The lean approach is not something you adopt for a certain period time. It is a model that a business needs to stick to through both good and bad times. Lean makes sense, especially in today's world of business that is fluctuating at an unprecedented rate.
3. Analyze. Analyze. Analyze.
Ten to twenty years ago, the only types of business that could really harness the power of business intelligence and business analytics were large companies that could afford both the accumulation of data and the experts who could make sense of all this information.
Over the last decade or so, however, we have seen an explosion in the field of business intelligence software which has, for the lack of a better expression, brought business intelligence to the masses. Nowadays, even SMEs can find an affordable piece of business intelligence software that will help them make more informed and objective decisions that will help them grow.
4. Build a Brand
Most small business owners think that a brand is something only huge corporations can build. They think that a brand has to be this world-renowned entity that everyone recognizes and that features advertisements with the biggest celebrities in the world.
This could not be further from the truth. A brand is simply an image that your customers and your potential customers associate with your business. The tiniest local restaurant can build a brand that rests on high quality products and an always-smiling service. A 6-person firm in a mind-numbingly boring industry can become a brand associated with high quality service and top-notch expertise.
Brands are not only for the big guys.
5. Make Difficult Decisions
Running a small business is usually a much more personal affair than running a corporation which employs thousands. When running a large company, getting rid of a hundred employees is easier than firing an SME Steve, a guy who grew up on your street, who has two children and whose wife cooked for company outings for the last three years.
Unfortunately, difficult decisions need to be made in the small business arena too and the sooner you realize this, the better. As long as you have solid reasons for making these decisions, you should never feel too bad. We are not saying you should become a sociopath who basks in schadenfreude, but you should be able to separate business from personal.
It goes without saying that these are not the only lessons a small company can learn from the biggest players out there. However, we think they are the most basic ones and the ones that will boost your small business the most.
Norah has been timidly exploring the world of marketing for years, finally taking the plunge and becoming a small business owner herself. She is now devoted more than ever to the exploration of the latest trends, and has become quite addicted – she spends way too much time reading up on the latest social media crazes.