“Small businesses are nimble and bold, and can often teach much larger companies a thing or two about innovations that can change entire industries.” — Richard Branson.
While Branson’s basic idea of a small company leveraging its size and tight-knit culture to grow quickly and come up with creative ideas that can be rapidly deployed isn’t new, it often appears to be a stretch of the imagination to look at things from the opposite perspective: asking what your small, home-based business can learn from a large company.
The reason for this reluctance to switch perspective is because it appears absurd, as the discrepancy in resources between the two is enormous. However, many business systems and company policies perfected by a giant corporation can work for any size of business.
Let’s take a look at some business systems and company policies that could work well for your small business:
A business system is a course of action, or a process, for achieving a predetermined result. By having an effective business system in place, your startup can provide your customers with consistently high-quality services. Two examples of business systems that you can adopt from a large business are procurement and computer security.
Amazon’s role in changes in eProcurement can be seen in its relentless quest to perfect its business model. This has significantly contributed to the overall growth of standards in eCommerce. One of these contributions is an increased awareness of the benefits of adopting eProcurement software. Although using eProcurement has its fair share of challenges, companies that have learned to adopt it are reaping the benefits, reducing their costs and ensuring compliance with contracts. They’re also increasing productivity by relinquishing the time demands of managing low-value transactions, focusing instead on developing far more strategic sourcing and much better relationships with suppliers.
2. Computer Security
While a large company’s data breach makes news headlines because of the loss of millions of dollars, this doesn’t mean that hackers aren’t interested in the petty cash available by cleaning out a few tens of thousands of dollars from a small business’s computer system. On the contrary, hackers see small businesses as easy-to-pick, low-hanging fruit, because these are often carelessly secured. One invaluable takeaway is to avoid becoming an easy target by protecting your business systems with as much security as necessary to stay safe.
While employees of large corporations often mock the business policies put in place, chafing under the constraints to their freedom and self-expression, policies are necessary to define the roles and responsibilities of everyone in an organization. They serve to provide guidelines on a wide range of business operations. However, while startups like the idea of liberal rules for work, two highly useful policies to adopt from a large corporation are policies to ensure work-life balance and policies to achieve long-term business results.
1. Work-Life Balance.
Large companies have policies in place to limit working hours, schedule breaks and make sure their employees take vacations. However, in an effort to crush it, startups tend to depreciate the value of work-life balance, blurring the line between work and personal time. While, of course, the idea of drive, initiative and relentless pursuit of a worthy ideal through hard work are all noble ideals, entrepreneurs aren’t machines, and the human nervous system tends to break down under the strain of long working hours and insufficient sleep and recuperation. In short, the risk of burn-out is high, which compromises the creativity and proactivity necessary for business success.
2. Long-term Business Results.
In an effort to stay agile, with the ability to launch into a new, emerging market, small businesses tend to shun the insistence that large corporations place on mission statements, clear objectives, realistic timelines and measurable results. However, goal-setting is far from a stodgy business practice. While your small business may not need an elaborate goal-setting structure, it can still benefit enormously by creating a simple system like S.M.A.R.T. goals. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Naturally, as your business grows, you can implement increasingly sophisticated management practices to improve how you achieve your business outcomes.
In conclusion, it’s worth spending the time to research some of the things that large businesses do right, because you may be able to modify and adopt some of their best creative ideas and tools to deploy in your startup.