Why is your business small? And why are huge corporations huge? There are many reasons. Huge corporations usually are in businesses where there is a huge market which gives room to be huge. By definition, they have the most efficient ways of getting work done otherwise they wouldn’t be able to compete with the other corporations which also thrive on efficiency and potent marketing. Your business is small. It might be a niche business or a specialty service. There is no shame in having a small business and no shame if you don’t grow — just as long as you don’t shrink. But, in real life, you either grow or you shrink — so grow, and then give up your worst customers if you get tired. So, what can you do like a big corporation?
Big companies analyze their routines. They have set routines for all processes and have refined exactly how these processes are taught, done, and measured. To create a routine, you first need to make a list of all of the various ways you could do a various process. Try them all out, and then compare the results. You might find one is more time consuming but gives really good results, while another is time consuming but just wastes your time. As a general rule in business, time is of the essence and it pays to focus on what is critical and put less attention on what is less critical.
As I mentioned in point 1, it is good to be regimented. You have to have discipline, daily, weekly and monthly habits to get ahead in business. Routines may evolve over time, and that is fine. But, you need to have all aspects of your business boiled down to a routine.
(3) The creative process
The creative process is the one aspect of your business that specifically should not be routine. Yes, you can have processes for creativity. You can have meetings, phone calls, trips to special places (like the beach in my case) where you think better. However, to be creative, it is best to shake up your daily routine and try something different, meet different people, and see how different businesses handle particular tasks. I was very inspired in Japan when I ordered an ice cream at Narita. It took them 20 seconds to process my order and have an ice cream in my hands. Americans would have taken two minutes for the same task. The Japanese are always a source of inspiration for me. Perhaps my processes can become lightening fast like the school girl ninjas I saw at the soft-serve bar in Japan.
(4) Hiring and firing
Large companies don’t just hire someone who seems good. They have multiple interviews, they test learning curves, they test abilities, and they try people out before giving employees critical tasks. Small businesses by definition have sloppy hiring practices — me included. We entrepreneurs lack the resources and skills to compare a new hire to thousands of others. Big companies also promote from within rather than hiring a new person to do a critical task. You cannot trust a stranger as well as a seasoned employee. Sure, the new hire might have better skills, but are they loyal and do you know their personality quirks? Big companies are refined about knowing personality types and getting rid of the ones that don’t fit their company image. Small companies are a disaster in this respect to the point that hiring disasters seems to be their company culture — what a disaster!
(5) Contracts & Legal issues
Big companies are very particular about legal issues. They will invest huge sums of money in Attorneys to make sure they stay out of trouble. Small companies are more concerned with getting work done and growing and less concerned with what can go wrong. An injury or a law suit could ruin you. Also, employee disputes can become a huge problem. Sometimes it is easier if you have contracts to govern employee behavior, injuries, maternity leave, etc. It is better if you have it all thought out ahead of time.
(6) Wait a second, the title says “5 things” you can do, not 6…
Yes, but here are some things you should probably not do as a small company to mimic big companies. The private jet looks fun, and might be a source of inspiration, but don’t get one now. Wait until you are ready and can afford it. In the mean time, have a photo of a private jet in your office and tell everyone it’s yours… in the future. The expensive offices may be too much. Sometimes it is more important to have an office that fits your personality and where your employees feel their best. Big offices downtown might be good to capture that energy of productivity. If that is what you need then pay the sky-high rent — it might be worth it. But, get what is right for you instead of blindly copying the big guys. Being too stiff and wearing suits all the time might be good for the big guys. It might be better for you to do yoga, meditate, and talk long walks by the beach wearing a tank top. It is hard to say what is right for you. Startups have a lot to learn about proper business procedure. But, some of the stuff the big guys do might not be so practical for the rest of us. Find out for yourself.