5 Things Startups, Small Business and Big Brands Can Learn from Each Other

5 Things Startups and Small Businesses Can Learn from Big Brands

Startup cultures are known for their drive and ambition. Employees are admirably passionate and have tireless work ethics that don’t go unnoticed and often help propel the organization forward towards profitability and success.

But before your small business can bat in the big leagues, it’s important to research and reflect upon the successes of larger companies to see what work you can do to achieve the same results. Below are five things startups and small businesses can learn from big brands.

1. Focus On Your Employees

As a small business, it’s important to focus on your employees early on so that it becomes a core value as the business continues to grow. By building a culture that appreciates, celebrates, and empowers employees, you’ll find you can more easily scale your business because you have a motivated staff that will work hard to take the company to the next level.

With that in mind, of course, it’s easy for employees at startups to work countless hours to prove their value. Management needs to enforce a work-life balance policy as part of the company culture to make sure these hard-working employees don’t face burnout. It’s important to set concrete boundaries, especially for the fledgling startups working from a person’s basement or garage. These companies most often face blurred lines between personal and professional lives.

Invest in the top talent in your field. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire the person with the most experience, but rather seek out the candidates with the most drive whose values match the company’s (provided they offer the required skillset as well).

Big brands have an easier time focusing on employees because they have processes setup and operations in place that allow their business to run more efficiently than the often much scrappier startup world. By taking the big business approach to employee focus, companies will reap the rewards provided by a driven staff.

2. Establish Processes to Ease Stress and Frustration

The beginning phases of a startup can be chaotic. There are so many tasks that need to get done that it can be hard to prioritize where to start. Often businesses just want to get started on whatever product or service they’re working on and get it out to the public as soon as possible, yet they forget to take a step back and focus on the business and operations themselves.

Big brands have documented processes in place that help guide all operations related to the organization. These processes help companies stay on track and help to put order to any chaos that may occur.

Small businesses should be documenting critical business processes from the beginning to best organize their company. This will help to ease stress and frustration as inevitable changes arise in the future.

3. Know Who You Are

Putting processes and procedures together not only helps to organize the business, but they also help companies define what kind of business they want to be.

Big companies have strong brand personalities that people can identify with. They know who they are and they know who they want to target—small businesses need to aim to achieve the same.

Remember: you don’t need to be everything to everyone. In fact, trying to accomplish such a thing can be detrimental to business and a waste of time. Know what you’re good at (and who you’re good for), and then aim to make those strengths shine even more.

4. Invest in Technologies

While many startups and small businesses operate on a shoestring budget, it’s important to invest in technology that can help make processes more efficient and can help scale business with ease.

Big brands know you can’t grow your business quickly or effectively without relying on technology to streamline operations. Sure, a small family practice might be able to manage patient files by hand. It might be easy to call each and every individual and remind them when it’s time for an annual exam. But does that workflow hold up when the business quadruples in size? In the healthcare space, big companies have been quick to innovate and adapt new technologies to streamline the work and, ultimately, create better client experiences.

While small businesses may be apt to use as few technological resources as possible to keep spending to a minimum, it’s better that they base their decisions off where their business is going in the future so the technology can scale along with it. By planning ahead, businesses won’t need to replace all of their systems further down the road.

Most small companies don’t have the time, bandwidth, or budget to research the systems that would best support their businesses. These types of organizations should consider hiring a managed service provider who can handle all IT-related operations for a small business for less money than it would take to hire an in-house full-time IT expert.

Getting technologies set up will save a small business time and money in the long run and will allow them to focus on the areas of the business that matter most.

5. Listen to Your Customers and Make Them Feel Special

Understanding who your customers are is critical to being a successful business, no matter what your size. All startups and small businesses start with an idea. It can be easy for a small business owner to want to drive every business decision by their initial concept and do what they think is right to get their product or service in the hands of the customers.

But does your product or service properly address your customers’ wants, needs, or pain points? By listening to customers, you are able to give customers exactly what they’re looking for, even if it’s different than what you originally conceptualized.

The hospitality industry has always been known for adapting to shifts in consumer behavior and responding to their wants and requests. In recent years, the hospitality industry has put a large focus on technology, from free WiFi to digital check-in and check out, due to the demands of the consumer. Whatever they can do to make a customer’s experience more enjoyable, they’ll do it. Small businesses of every kind should have this same mentality.

Starting a small business can be a daunting time in an entrepreneur’s life, but you don’t have to go it alone or start from scratch. By analyzing big brands and learning from their successes and failures, your small business or startup venture can create a roadmap that will help your business reach new heights in no time.

5 Things Big Brands Can Learn from Startups and Small Businesses

In the business world, startups and smaller companies often look at the success stories and failures of big brands in an effort to learn from them to help take their own business to the next level. While there’s no doubt small businesses can learn from these larger companies, larger companies can also learn a thing or two from small businesses.

When big brands take a step back and reflect on the days when they were starting up themselves, they’ll find the learnings can be extremely valuable. Below are five things big brands can learn from startups and small businesses, or by looking back at their own past.

1. The Focus Is on Employees

As big brands continue to scale and grow, all too often their main focus falls on getting results and making stakeholders happy. When this happens, employee satisfaction and company culture suffer. One of the most important investments any business can make is in its employees. At the end of the day, a business can’t exist and grow without them, so your company needs to ensure employees are taken care of.

2. Remember Who You Are

For big brands, it can be easy to get caught up in day-to-day operations and forget the passion that existed in the infancy stages of the company. Through years of operational changes, turnover, stress, and pleasing investors, many large businesses lose their connection to the original story they wanted to tell. But it’s always important to get back to your roots and remember why the business was started in the first place.

By keeping the passion alive, big brands bring energy into their culture, and their employees will be encouraged and motivated to take the business’s growth even further.

3. Take Risks

Out of necessity, startups and small businesses take risks in order to move the company to the next level. As businesses grow, however, there is much more at stake, making larger businesses more risk averse than they were in their early years.

When a business graduates from a small business to a large business, it can be easy to grow stagnant. Processes get set up, and everybody starts abiding by the rules of the organization. Big businesses may forget to work on their business while continuing to grow their business. Evolving the business includes taking risks.

To do this, large businesses should continue to test all business processes and optimize against what’s working and remove or change what’s not. Even if a business’s current operations have worked thus far, it doesn’t mean they’ll continue to work in the future. Continue to test new technologies, processes, and procedures to ensure you are always staying on your proverbial toes and making your products and services continuously better.

4. Limit Bureaucracy

Many startup cultures have flat organizations because everybody has a pivotal role in the company as business ramps up. As companies grow, however, organizational hierarchies develop as a way to bring structure to the business. Procedures get developed to put order to any chaos that may arise, and approval processes get developed to ensure things are going out the door flawlessly. Unfortunately, when these policies aren’t implemented correctly, they can create bottlenecks. It becomes hard to move things out the door quickly and efficiently, risking missed deadlines and a delay in business operations.

It’s important for big brands to be fast and flexible and to not have too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to approvals. Management needs to put trust in the employees and empower them to make the right decisions—employees are hired for a reason. Once they’ve proven they can handle the assigned work, it’s important to step back and let the employees do their jobs. If everybody takes ownership of their responsibilities and doesn’t hover over others, operations will be effective and efficient.

The more management gives employees the freedom to explore their own capabilities, the more creative and innovative a business can be.

5. Spend Wisely

The phrase “more money, more problems” doesn’t only apply to individuals. As a business grows bigger, pockets get deeper, and the yearn to spend money mindlessly and on frivolous things seems to emerge. Often brands with large amounts of money at their disposal can actually be negatively impacted due to the excess of cash.

Think like a startup would financially. Focus on spending money as efficiently as possible, whether it be on investing in new equipment, hiring top talent, or treating your staff to an annual retreat to show your appreciation. Ensure your spending habits align with business goals. All purchases should makes sense for the company; don’t spend money simply because it’s available in the budget

As your big brand continues to grow and establish itself in the marketplace, take a step back to audit your processes. Think about your company through the lens of a startup or small business, and ensure your priorities are in the right place and continue to remain aligned with your business goals and company culture.

 

Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.