Running a small business is a lot of work. There is no shortage of things to do in your small business, whether you’ve just started out or have been growing over the last number of years. It can also be daunting to think about how to make your business stand out against the big guys. You know, the big businesses around you that have more money, employees, resources, and investment. Oh, and maybe even an office. What you lack in money and space, you make up for in drive, determination and skill. Don’t get down on yourself because you aren’t the Walmart of your industry. You don’t need to be, and in many cases, you don’t want to be. Instead of fretting about the big guys who are doing it cheaper and apparently easier than you, focus on what you can learn from them to grow your own business.
Rather than exhaust your own marketing dollars trying to figure out what works, pay attention to what the big businesses are offering. There is often information available about the statistics of marketing, what works and what doesn’t. Reading about what failed for a big company can help you decide what direction to take your small business. Have you ever heard of how Febreze nearly tanked because the company thought it was going to be used in a certain way by homemakers, and it turned out that when the company gave the product to people cleaning up, they found their own way to use it. Don’t assume you know how your customers will use a product. Look at what’s not working and adjust your approach accordingly.
You don’t need to have fancy communication platforms to talk to your staff; even the big companies are still using email and chat forums to send information around the office. Don’t bother investing a lot of money into a fancy communication system that just makes more work for your employees. Instead, if you want to stand out, create and maintain an open door policy that is real. A lot of big companies try to do this, but can’t because of the sheer size of their operation. Small businesses can do this and make for a more effective workplace. When employees are happy, they make your customers happy.
If there’s one thing you can learn from big business, it’s this: you need to spend money to make money. Whether you decide to invest dollars into an employee feedback program, bettering your own professional development or paying for much-needed consulting or contracting services, when you invest money in your business you can almost always count on some kind of return. Do some research to see where the big companies are focusing their investments and decide if that is a good fit for your business. You don’t need to spend at the scale of big business, but you can adjust that budget to match your own and make a training calendar, investment plan or roadmap for ensuring you continue to invest in your business.
Running a business requires a lot of time and effort, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to grow your business. Stop thinking of big businesses as competition and start looking at them as if they are your teachers. Be deliberate about paying attention to them and seeing what’s available right in front of you: information. Find a comparable competitor in your industry that is big and bold and learn all you can, even from their mistakes.