One challenge which small business often faces is scalability. Can they take their small business model and grow it if their business takes off like a rocket? Small businesses must constantly think about how to become big business, but is there value in looking in the opposite direction? Can big business learn from small business operations?
There are many lessons small businesses can teach big businesses if big business is willing to listen and learn. Here are several examples of what big businesses can learn from small business.
Focus On Employees
In a large business, employees often become faceless, nameless placeholders in the company. They are seen as a critical component of the business, but often not as people. Their value resides in how they affect the bottom line. However, small businesses know that you must hire good people in order to do good business. You must show that they are valuable.
The cost of replacing well trained, highly skilled employees is expensive. So much so, that small businesses avoid it as much as possible. Large businesses, on the other hand, like to maintain that all employees are replaceable so that they don’t feel like they have too much leverage. Big business can absorb the cost of employee churn, but it is a way of building in inefficiency. Keeping employees happy creates stability and lowers the costs involved in training and mistakes senior employees rarely make.
Invest in Service
People are emotional. Because of that it is important to keep in mind that people will have an emotional response to your company based on how they were treated in their dealings. Small businesses understand that they must work hard to keep customers happy. It is expensive to gain customers, so if you have one, keep them. Big businesses expect to lose customers and factor that in.
However, doing everything necessary to retain customers can be money well spent. This can mean refunds or personal communications in order to improve a soured experience. Enterprise customer service software can be an effective way to manage the demands of customers without creating additional dissatisfaction.
As the saying goes, “More money, more problems.” One problem large businesses tend to have is a lack of flexibility. Small businesses are nimble and can make changes quickly. Just like it’s harder to turn around an aircraft carrier than it is to turn a speedboat, big business is often slow to respond to arising needs. However, if you can empower your employees and lower levels to make decisions and create incentives and accountability, large business can become more flexible and responsive.
This requires trust and that is where hiring good people and keeping them matters again. Big business often hides behind rules and bureaucracy designed to protect the business from liability, but in turn they create rigidity and inefficiency. Employees are less satisfied when they are disempowered, and this causes them to work with one eye out the door. And dissatisfied employees are less productive and perpetuate a reputation that the company is not a great place to work.
Small companies don’t have the wiggle room to make mistakes. Every penny counts, whereas in big business, poor decisions are merely an accounting phenomenon. Overcoming an error is simply part of the process. However, if a big business can discipline its employees to be accountable to the bottom line like a small business must, this can improve the profit margins and decrease waste.
Big business is notoriously risk averse. They usually forget they got where they are by taking chances and those chances paying off. Small businesses understand that they have to swing for the bleachers occasionally in order to succeed in a competitive world. Big business has the resources to take chances and make those pay off, if they can convince themselves that preserving their market niche is not all they want to accomplish.
Small businesses are well aware of who they are, what they stand for and where they came from. Big businesses often lose sight of their origins and that can cause an identity crisis and lead to paths which go against their original. Especially because large businesses get disconnected from their communities and missions. But if they remember who they are, they can keep their brands associated with their founding values.
There is a perception that big business has all the answers, that is how they got so big. There are some things that big businesses forget, however, and they can learn from small businesses. The key is to integrate the advantages of being a small business with the resources of being a big business. When companies do that, they become less susceptible to failure.
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