Small businesses and large international corporations might not have much in common, but they operate on the same fundamental principles. Startups can learn a lot from big brands about fiscal responsibility, employee retention, customer service and many other essential practices.
If you’re trying to grow a small business, start by taking these five critical lessons from large corporations to heart.
1. Change Benefits the Challenger
In the corporate world, big-name brands are the champions and small businesses are the challengers. The champions will often prefer playing things safe, protecting their lucrative assets. This passive attitude has made many global companies obsolete in a few years. Think of names like Blockbuster, Kodak and Motorola.
On the flip side, the challengers can greatly benefit from change. A new trend or sudden market shake-up could be a small business’s golden opportunity to expand to a regional or national organization. For example, many automotive startups have capitalized on the continued rise of electric vehicles to become household names in their industry.
There are many ways for startup companies to take advantage of change in this digital age. You can leverage first-party data and analytics to better understand your customer base, build your community presence, develop new products or services and network with known brands.
Today’s rapid technological advancements might be too unfamiliar or risky for well-established corporations, but they offer many opportunities for challengers to become champions. When your industry’s biggest names take their foot off the gas, you must seize the moment and expand.
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2. Connections Can Only Get You So Far
Every business needs industry connections to succeed, but they can only get you so far. You can’t rely on networking alone to take your business to the next level. These relationships can fall apart for many reasons, including different values, lack of dependence, security issues or a heated personal disagreement.
Additionally, networking alone only leads to empty transactions and doesn’t build genuine relationships. The connection is more likely to fail if both parties are only being friendly for business reasons. Successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos went through many failed partnerships and brand collaborations on their way to the top.
It becomes harder to make genuine connections once you reach the regional, national and international levels. That’s why small businesses must develop their contacts in their early stages. Unlike big multinational corporations, local companies have an opportunity to create tight relationships with people close to home whom they can trust.
3. Diversification Is Key to Customer Retention
Loyalty incentives aren’t enough to retain your customers in today’s market. Boredom sets in quickly. People will eventually get bored and start looking for other options if a small business only offers the same products or services. You need to keep things fresh and exciting, which requires frequent changes to your offerings throughout the year.
Big corporations are experts at diversifying their revenue streams and keeping customers on their toes. Apple is the perfect example. Think about how many different types of smartphones, earbuds, chargers and other accessories it has released over the years. The products don’t differ much from year to year, but they’re just different enough to keep people interested.
Small businesses with more localized markets can offer diverse seasonal services based on weather changes, holidays and other factors. For example, a landscaping company should provide spring cleaning services to retain its customers and create a reliable revenue stream during that time of year.
4. Company Culture Keeps Employees Around
Employee retention has been a major challenge for small businesses recently, but the tide is starting to turn. New employment research suggests that younger workers are finally settling into their positions and restabilizing the workforce. The biggest driver of this trend isn’t a bigger paycheck but an emphasis on company culture.
According to a survey from Monster, 83% of Gen Z workers said they want to work for businesses that foster diverse and inclusive environments. A supportive company culture boosts employee morale and productivity, which leads to greater profits. Diversity and inclusion aren’t just PR slogans. They’re real priorities that affect your bottom line.
Big corporations have a harder time promoting their values among employees because of the sheer size of their workforce, but even they have seen profit increases from prioritizing company culture. In fact, 80% of Fortune 500 companies have profit-driven motives for embracing diversity, equity and inclusion.
5. Don’t Underestimate Cyberthreats
About 51% of small businesses still aren’t investing in cybersecurity measures because they don’t think they’re an attractive target for cybercriminals. On the other hand, big corporations know that cyberthreats are lurking around every corner.
Global cyberattacks increased by 38% from 2021 to 2022. A handful of recent high-profile data breaches happened to T-Mobile, Chick-Fil-A, MailChimp and the Yum Foods brand. Take the lesson from these companies and do not underestimate the severity of cyberthreats. If it can happen to them, it can happen to you.
You must heavily invest in cybersecurity to protect your assets if you want your business to reach a regional or national level. A startup might not get much attention from cybercriminals now, but it will become a target if it continues to grow.
The SuN Takeaway
Small-business owners must realize that owning a company is a copycat profession. Every place has some original ideas, but the most successful observe their competitors, learn from their mistakes and follow the principles with a proven track record. These five lessons are just the tip of the iceberg.