Small Business Lessons to Big Business

Have you ever been on a cruise? You know, the kind of cruise with crystal clear waters, blue skies, and Julie McCoy-like characters on the Lido deck, sultry bathing beauties in bikinis, the sweet, sticky scent of sun-tan oil wafting through the air, warm yellow rays splashing against your face, while you lazily pass the time until you reach the next island port. As you read, I am breaking into the corporate internet security system.

You’ve just been able to hop islands.

Small businesses have mastered the art of island hopping. They pack light, live low, and quickly change direction depending on news, needs, and upcoming threats.

Due to politics and hierarchy, it can take a long time for big businesses to switch gears. Large companies cannot afford to shelter their specialists and steadfast employees in today’s uncertain world. To remain competitive, big businesses and their staff must be able to move from island to island.

Six small business island-hopping techniques to inspire prominent business leaders.

You are the CEO, CMO, CMO’s assistant, and janitor on a remote small island

The big businesses tried de-institutionalizing island-hopping long ago to maintain efficiency and control costs. The big company hired experts in their field and organized them into departments such as finance, operations, and brand teams. These teams met to discuss strategies and plans, but there was no full appreciation or integration of their work.

Many large businesses do require cross-functional assignments. P&G requires that finance teams take on a brand role before promotion, and Coke requires brand teams to do a field assignment. Short stints will not be enough to break down silos. Functional silos inhibit big business.

Small businesses are prone to losing their management infrastructure with the tide. Small business owners must be in charge of operations, marketing and finance, investor relations, customer relations…and floor mopping. Small businesses are nimbler. It is also essential to ensure that teams of small businesses collaborate, eliminate bottlenecks, and react to unexpected events. Reduced transaction costs.

A redesigned organizational structure could help eliminate silos across functions, but it would take a commitment from executive leadership teams to maintain this discipline. It would be a good idea to start by aligning staff roles with customer needs and linking cross-functional processes and systems. Let your employees determine what they are good at, then help them define their roles.

Let’s all hail SEI Investments, a robust financial services company in Pennsylvania with no walls, secretaries, and no Human Resources department, as a model for the new economy.

Unplanned brands, innovation, and hidden treasures are all examples of this

When I worked at General Mills and Coke, as well as P&G, the time it took to launch or activate new programs was baffling. While thorough and strategic, the annual planning process often prevented brands from considering delayed-arrival sponsorship or promotion opportunities. Brand managers often lose the value of new ideas when they have internal support, with security checks up to the CMO.

According to legend, Cool from Nestea – now the #2 brand of iced tea – was not created by brand managers but by bottlers who cleverly decided to add preservatives into regular Nestea before packaging the product in cans. They did this without seeking approval from executives. Bottlers made the brand famous. Brand management had to acknowledge its popularity and develop consumer taglines and promotional material to support it in retail.

Microsoft’s CEO admitted in an article published by Fast Company that “Our employees complain that we are moving more slowly now than before.”

A small business can be flexible regarding product offerings and market trends. It is beneficial to be able to respond to changing environments and change directions. There are no product launch origin documents, tedious division reviews, exhaustive quantitative research, BASES studies, or test market trials. Although there are risks associated with first-generation mistakes, second-generation renovations can often fix first-generation problems.

Method Engine in Chicago, a company that designs B2B Web applications, has found success by being flexible. Method Engine has almost doubled its sales each year by adapting and collaborating to the changing technology needs of clients and by overcoming personnel changes.

Innovation can happen in the most unexpected places. You should seize the opportunity when you see it. By reducing unnecessary paperwork, eliminating Checkpoint Charlie, and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit, big businesses can accelerate the development of new products. To be flexible, big companies should set up a slush fund to exploit late-game opportunities. Sneakers for speed and a compass to change are essentials for island-hopping by big companies.

Castaway, Tom Hanks, and volleyball – have passion, conviction, and creativity

Notice how an average entrepreneur can quickly jump from one project to another, is focused, and is a bit obsessed? Passion and conviction combined with discipline can lead to extraordinary productivity and creativity. Tom Hanks Castaway built a boat by hand and weathered many storms. He also managed to be rescued while having heartfelt discussions with a volleyball.

It is admirable to pursue your company’s goals with a passion. It’s all about getting from one island to another. The journey is more enjoyable if you stay focused and a bit crazy. Tom Asacker is an excellent example of a small business entrepreneur with a big personality.

Clients Meeting previous clients can lead to new customers and improve customer service.

Competitors Share ideas, referrals, and referrals as long as your niche is unique.

Suppliers A smile and a coffee can lead to just-in-time supply management and discounted rates.

Business Community Chambers of Commerce and associations are all potential sources of business leads.

Staff members: Inspiring team means long lunches and Friday baseball games.

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