Larger companies frequently attempt to appear smaller than they are in reality. The underlying hope is that their customers will feel like they’re special. But don’t mistake these efforts to appear small with thinking small. Big enterprises are always in the big-picture business.
These days, larger enterprises are taking a lot of cues from the intimate, first-name-basis relationships many smaller businesses have with customers. Smaller companies, for their part, can learn a lot from those enterprises that can help them remain competitive and successful. All they need to do is know where to look.
If you’re a small business owner, don’t use company size as an excuse to not follow the lead of the big dogs. Instead, open yourself up to the potential to grow. After all, large successful companies must be doing some things right. You can be small but think big. Listed below are three reasons smaller businesses need to think more like large-scale enterprises.
1. Automation in a few key areas just makes sense.
Technology can be a great friend to the small business owner. You probably aren’t using carbon-copy paper forms or “a kerchunk machine” to process credit card payments anymore. These processes are made so much easier with smart terminals or mobile processing apps.
Devote some intentional time to finding places where you’re still doing some things manually or using outdated equipment. Uncover any hidden areas where you’re wasting the valuable time and effort of your limited employee work hours. These losses equate to lost revenue you could be using to build your business. For example, bigger companies don’t have employees sitting around calculating employee pay, benefits, and withholding compliance by hand.
You shouldn’t, either. Your company could be using payroll software for small businesses to do the heavy lifting. Plug in the relevant employee information one time and let payroll software handle the rest. Spend this freed-up time setting sales goals for the next quarter instead. You’ll find that software is far less expensive and much more accurate than having an employee do it manually.
Look for other areas where automation could free up time, such as accounts receivable and payable. Don’t forget customer communication, lead generation, and marketing tasks. Powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence, intuitive tech is just one way larger enterprises convey a sense of intimacy to their customers and prospects.
Using technology to automate everyday operations is no longer limited to big business. From adding a shopping cart to your website to automating the routing of incoming calls, you can be enterprise efficient while maintaining small business appeal.
2. Formalizing policies and procedures helps improve customer service.
Outdated and mystifying policies and procedures can be a drag. If you left an employer to launch your own small business, they’re undoubtedly something you don’t miss. However, smaller businesses have plenty of good reasons to have formal policies and procedures in place.
Before you begin committing policies and procedures to employee manuals, consider the type of company culture you hope to foster. Although many small businesses adopt what’s known as a clan culture, others go with hierarchy, market, or adhocracy cultures. Or they may end up with a combination of more than one of these. Your desired company culture will help drive the tone and content of your policies and procedures.
Formal policies and procedures help to set expectations for employees and keep everyone on the same page. They communicate a company’s values to all stakeholders and help managers instill them in employees. They also provide an opportunity for you to assign roles and responsibilities while creating flexibility within them.
Moving beyond the philosophical, formal policies and procedures also serves a legal purpose. They spell out the measures you’re taking to ensure compliance with laws, rules, and regulations. Spending time to create these documents just might help keep your company out of hot water. It would be best if you invest in a contract lifecycle management software that would prevent you from any problems related to legal documents or contracts.
True, it can be tough for a small business owner to devote the time and energy it takes to formalize these documents. Furthermore, you may not even know where to begin. Some consultants can help, if necessary, but there are also ample online templates you can use.
Companies large and small benefit from the road map formal policies and procedures provide. Putting them down on paper might present a bigger challenge to a smaller business. But you’ll reap the same benefits in the end.
3. Effective branding will give you a competitive edge.
Small businesses often think of themselves as “just” small businesses. Large enterprises think of themselves as a brand. That brand provides the direction and focus for everything they do.
Brands are far more than eye-catching logos or a memorable name. Thoughtful brands distinguish one company from all others in the same line of business. They represent a commitment to their customers that the brand is exactly what it purports to be and consistently delivers on its promises.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re the mom-and-pop convenience store on the corner or a multi-million-dollar enterprise. Branding will bring new customers through the door and keep them coming back. Few businesses, regardless of size, can survive long-term without branding.
Small businesses need to take a page from the big enterprise book and develop a brand strategy. That strategy should chart a course for marketing, sales, and retention. It should permeate everything you do, from your website content to how your employees answer the phone.
Try a quick thought experiment. Ask yourself why you buy something from one large company rather than one of its competitors. Your reasons may range from price point to customer service, to how well its product or service solves a problem. Therein lies that enterprise’s brand.
Use branding to define your small business to your target market. Your brand must differ noticeably from that of your competitors. That’s how branding works for companies of all shapes and sizes.
Stay small with customer care, but think big where it counts.
Automation, formalizing policies and procedures, and consistent branding are three of the top not-so-secret tricks of the larger enterprise trade.
Don’t be daunted by the process of adapting enterprise-scale practices to your small business. There are plenty of software, hardware, consulting, templates, and other resources designed specifically for smaller businesses. That means they’re accessible, easy to use, and affordable.
Once you commit to thinking big, start searching for the best solutions for you and your budget. Enterprises garner a competitive edge by pretending that they are small businesses. Small businesses can thrive by thinking more like an enterprise. What’s good for the enterprise gander may be a good way to goose the bottom line of your small business.