Seven things I’ve learnt from big business

It’s easy to criticise large institutions for their bureaucratic processes and customer service shortcomings. But, by examining what they do well, there’s a wealth of ideas for small businesses. Here are seven…

1. Be firm.

Try negotiating the price of a Big Mac, or getting a cinema to change the time of a movie. It’s easy to get pushed around as a solo operator – weekend work, rush jobs and discounts. For the sake of your sanity, credibility and profits, it’s often best to confidently put your foot down. “This is how we do things around here. This is how much it costs. End of story.”

2. Invest in marketing.

Every big business dedicates resources into marketing, sales and networking. It’s not because they have cash to burn, it’s because it works to grow their business. It doesn’t have to be a Super Bowl ad, it doesn’t even need to cost money, but you do need to invest regularly in business development.

3. Turn away customers.

Try getting a big accounting firm to do your tax return. Large corporates know who their most profitable customers are, target them directly and have set criteria for who they sign up. It’s not because they can afford to turn away customers, it’s because they know that focusing on their core business and ideal customers will generate a greater return from limited resources.

4. Make plans.

As mind-numbing as those corporate workshops, strategy sessions and vision statements can be, they can be the difference between success and failure. To maximise success it’s critical to regularly lift your eyes from the daily grind and look at where your business is heading.

5. Build partnerships.

Look behind the scenes of many corporations and you’ll find a web of joint ventures, partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, mutual investments and shared projects. It may sound like something for expensive lawyers, but getting closer to your suppliers, customers and competitors – formally or informally – will create greater long-term value than working alone.

6. Invest in people (that’s you).

Training, certifications, industry events, rewards programs, networking functions, golf days and performance reviews all sound like big business activities, but to be successful all businesses must look after and develop their people – whether they have 1 or 1000 employees.

7. Get a corporate jet.

Actually no, the petrol is a little expensive.

Clearly, it’s not easy doing all these things when you’re wearing all the hats. But in many areas a big business approach can work wonders for small business.

What are your thoughts? Get your people to call my people, or make a comment yourself.

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