You’ve heard the analogy of how large and small businesses make decisions: a large business is like a cruise ship – it carries a lot of people who don’t know each other, has all-inclusive benefits, but it can’t change directions quickly without throwing everyone into the ocean. A small business is like a speed boat – it carries fewer people who all know each other, encourages you to crank up the music and go tubing, and it can take a 180 degree turn in seconds.
One of the advantages to being a small business is the ability to pivot quickly. Small businesses are agile and can make quick decisions, whereas large businesses are slower moving because there are more people involved in the decision-making process.
In response to this, a lot of large companies are starting to act like startups, realizing that by operating small they can better respond to the market. They are segmenting their company into autonomous departments who have the authority to make decisions within their “company”.
Nearly 98% of US businesses are small and they employ over 56 million people. Unfortunately, about 50% of them fail in their first year. The survival rate is low, so we need to utilize our small size as an advantage to grow our businesses.
Here are 7 great ways a small business can use its size as an advantage and fuel growth.
#1: ENGAGE YOUR TEAM
A business is only as good as its people and small businesses thrive on customer service, expertise, and relationships. Your team interacts with your customers constantly and they possess a wealth of information that can be very influential in the health and growth of your company. You should engage your team frequently through department meetings, surveys, and hangouts. This will deepen your relationship with your team and help you better serve your customers.
#2: SEEK CUSTOMER FEEDBACK
As a small business, you are perfectly positioned to engage your customers, listen to their feedback, and implement change – there are fewer layers between you and your customer. More than likely, the majority of your customers are local and accessible. Outside of your team, no one understands your services as well as your customers do.
When’s the last time you asked a customer for honest feedback about the performance of your service, customer support, or the work ethic of a team member? Or when’s the last time you asked how you can better serve them?
#3: REVIEW PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES
Let’s be honest, systems, processes, and procedures aren’t very exciting. They’re time consuming to create, require a lot of training to implement, and must be updated as your business grows. But, they are one of the key ingredients to ensuring your team is operating on the same page, and it allows you to confidently delegate tasks. A business owner who is unwilling to delegate either hasn’t hired the right people or doesn’t have the systems in place to allow them to succeed.
Processes and procedures will reduce bad habits and help your team complete tasks in a way that aligns with your vision. And here’s a tip: get input from your senior level employees when creating the documents.
#4: FOLLOW A MARKETING PLAN
Regardless of the size of your marketing budget, you need to have a plan and stick to it. When you operate without a marketing plan or budget, you tend to spend more money, spend it less efficiently, and have no data on your ROI. A marketing plan keeps your team focused on the correct target market, channels, and timeline. A concentrated plan will also keep you flexible – the more you know about what you’re doing, the quicker you can evaluate the data and pivot as necessary. Here’s a list of 5 reasons you need a marketing plan.
#5: EVALUATE YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINT AND BRANDING
Do you have a strong grasp on the different ways your market interacts with your brand? This includes your website, local SEO rank, social media platforms, eNewsletter, and your branding. These are the primary ways your market will “see” your company, and it’s important they have a strong first impression.
We recommend completing a full digital and brand evaluation once a year where you gather a team of people to analyze each platform and create notes on ways to improve it. This can include your staff, existing clients, and a marketing consultant. We offer a free website evaluation here.
#6: KNOW YOUR COMPETITION
You should monitor your competition because they are monitoring you, and you need to know what they’re up to. Follow their social channels, read their blogs, see where they are in the community, and study their clients to better understand their market focus. Their activity shouldn’t change your values or your competitive advantage, but it can provide a filter to help you evaluate your business.
Here’s a great question to ask yourself: If I was a competitor, how would I put my company out of business? Your answers will show your weak points and that’s where you should be focused.
And remember, the best way to shut down your competition is to offer the best possible product or service.
#7: LEAN ON COLLEAGUES
Small businesses have a lot in common with each other and the people who run them are like-minded: obsessive, passionate, driven, and familiar with the difficulties of growing a business. As you’ve run your business over the years, you’ve developed a strong list of contacts. Each person has a unique skillset and can offer great advice – don’t be afraid to ask. We’ve found that most business owners love talking about business growth and are more than willing to listen and offer feedback.