Small business owners often dismiss certain best practices, processes, technologies etc. as not being relevant in a smaller ecosystem. They may have created a handicap for themselves with this thought process. Over my years coaching SME business owners and Startup founders, I have identified a few things that small businesses can adopt from large corporates. They may require a little bit of adaptation, but they contribute to the overall success and growth of the business.
I am sharing a list below and would invite the readers to add to the list.
- Clear Objectives and Key Results- OKRs
This includes, documenting goals, plans and objectives along with the expected and achieved results. Writing down plans and expectations may seem very cumbersome and resource-consuming to a small business owner, but monitoring is incomplete without knowing what is planned/ expected and what is achieved, in real-time. Again, it is equally important to propagate this across all levels, from leadership to interns.
The value received is clarity on what is expected from individuals, when is it expected and how can one plan and execute it.
- Structured Review System
A continuation of the above point is a regularised review calendar for employees, teams and projects. It is equally important to understand that the review sessions are not for finding faults or lapses in employee performance. Rather the emphasis should be on identifying areas that need improvement through real-time feedback, support and mentoring. One of my coachees said, “During the weekly review, I can pluck out the things that the team was doing inadequately and guide them so that they did a better job next time”.
It would be time-consuming to establish these review systems initially. However, small businesses can easily identify the top 1 to 5 things that contribute to the success of the activity and spend only 15 minutes reviewing these.
- Employer Branding
Employer Branding is not just about huge hoardings of smiling employees. It is marketing the value that your organization offers to employees, differentiating yourselves from the competition. And if small businesses are struggling to hire and retain employees, employer branding is even more important to them.
Employer Branding is also so much more than high salaries and swanky offices. It is about the experience and learning that you offer. In small businesses, it’s also the access to leaders, the knowledge sharing and the responsibilities that embolden employees quickly.
- Customer Profiling
Large corporates spend huge resources on research and study of their customer segments. While it may not be possible for SMEs to make such investments, it is important to invest time in understanding the customers one is serving. The irony is that there is a large amount of unprocessed customer data lying around with businesses, and this can be a great place to start the process of ‘Getting to know your Customers Intimately”. After all, wouldn’t any business want to know if they are spending their precious resources on reaching out to the right set of customers, who value their business offerings and are willing to pay an amount that is profitable to the business?
- HR Function
SMEs often undervalue the HR function and rarely think beyond HR is responsible for hiring, salary disbursement and employee documentation.
An experienced HR head or manager is valuable to ensure that the right people are hired and retained; Employees are engaged and motivated to contribute to the success of the organization; People policies are designed and executed fairly; Performance and Development plans are in place to optimize contribution. Compensation strategies are fair and compelling. Employee grievances are addressed: and so much more.
- Competition Mapping
Knowing who your competition is, is key to creating competitive differentiation. It’s even more important to understand, who your customers consider your competitors.
Once the competitors are identified, the next step would be to create a visible differentiation that matters to the customers. This is easier said than done. However, this very competitive differentiation can impact the success rate of your sales and marketing efforts.
- Marketing Plans
Marketing and Advertising budgets are often miniscule or even non-existent in the SME’s balance sheets. This is often one of the reasons that SMEs have, what I call- “Sometimes ON and Sometimes OFF Marketing”.
Again, Marketing is not just about lead generation, but also about lead conversion. This is especially challenging for small businesses that have a long sales cycle. Without a good marketing plan, the sales team land up hounding potential customers to “Buy, Buy, Buy Now”, rather than engage the audience through a well-planned lead conversion process.
A small regular budget aptly utilized will go a long way to bolster sales and the brand value of the business.
- Investing in Technology
Technology is needed to automate the process, draw out insights, engage with bigger elements, and simplify complex situations. While manual methods may still work, they often limit the outputs in terms of quality, quantity, time etc.
The good thing is that with the current SAS models, technology has become affordable. The not-so-good thing is that there is a plethora of options that can confuse customers on which technologies to use. SMEs can hence utilize the freemium options, user reviews or even customer education programs to learn about the technologies and invest in the right ones.