I’ve spent a significant amount of time in both small business and big business environments. And the over riding conclusion I’ve come to is this:
Big Business is about the small picture.
Small Business is about the big picture.
While it seems unlikely, this irony is true for most of the people involved in either scenario. Big business due to their success and size split the tasks up into tiny little pieces. “Mary is responsible for new product development of our fat free, individually wrapped, cheese slices for the South West region”. The people become cogs in a machine that is so big the world becomes obscured. While in startups and small business we are responsible for, well everything from customer complaints, to invoicing, to media interviews.
So before we transition from big business into a startup, it pays to pay attention to the big picture because all too often when we ‘grow up’ working for big companies we lose sight of the real world we operate in.
Today I was having a chat with an aspiring web entrepreneur. She contacted me for some advice via skype. I asked her a question about her target audience, suggesting she focus on the top end of town and I thought was worth sharing here:
Antony: I thought it’s best to focus on all small & medium companies rather than big giants
Steve: The size of the company is totally irrelevant. What IS relevant – is why your business solves their problems….
I don’t think you can delineate between big or small business being harder to sell to. I’ve had just as many challenges with each…
Small biz can be tighter with their funds….
Big biz can be locked into deals….
and vice versa…. it’s in our mind….
Steve: What matters is the value your business creates…. when you create value that matters – then the sell gets easier – regardless of the target…
If success at your current location is important. Then these two juxtaposed philosophies will serve you well.
When you are working in a big place, tell them what they want to hear.
When you are working in a small place, tell them the truth, even if it’s not what they want hear.
Prufrock coffee who created the worlds first disloyalty card.
The card to encourages their clients to sample the wares of quality coffee shops around their local region in London. Which is completely counter intuitive to sound business practice.
How does it work?
If a disloyalty member tries all 8 coffees on the above card , it will earn you a free coffee at your next visit to Prufrock Coffee. The interesting part is that it was conceived to keep ‘coffee customers’ out of the four walls of the ever encroaching Starbucks behemoth. The disloyalty card created a community of coffee lovers that could compete the ‘way of an artisan’. Something Starbucks could never do. It might just help keep them out. In this instance the community matters more than the trader. This is the new collaborative world we are in transition towards. A community who vest their interests in each other.
What can your startup do to flip the rules and do what a bigger competitor never could?
So how do we leverage a human revolution from a commercial perspective? It’s a big question. And even though the web has gone a long way in deconstructing power bases, business and human evolution are still inextricably linked. So I thought I’d post a few things that matter in a digital world so all players (people and commerce) can create value for each other simultaneously.
Rules of engagement
- Authenticity pays. Be real, don’t pretend to be something, or someone your not. Brand respect comes from understanding the rules and respecting the on line world as the real world and vice versa.
- Speak with a human voice. We don’t listen to Corpi-speak. We listen to voices from people. We ten must personify our brands.
- Engage the crowd. They own our brands. You want proof. When they stop feeding our brand (buying) it dies. We must pay the respect the real brand owners deserve. It’s always been this way, but we didn’t know…. because we couldn’t hear their voices. Now they they have a voice, we must act on it. We have to let our people hijack our brands. User Generated Content and Crowd Sourcing is where it’s at.
- Compound effort. Benefits take longer to garner in the new world. It’s not like the old days of a large media campaign with instant results. We are moving from a low human capital, high financial capital environ, to a large human capital, low financial capital world.
- Learn on the job – it can’t be strategized. It’s too unorganized and changeable… the web is humanity in digital form. Then they only way to play is to embrace the chaos and be part of the conversation. It can’t be justified to a board room, but the companies and brands who choose not to play will be wondering what happened a few short years from now.
Most of all, have fun doing it.
I was asked to give a list to Tim Reid on a few micro marketing / startup tips for his terrific podcast. I thought they were worth sharing in point form here.
- Project management is the key skill (Outsource weaknesses, be blissfully unaware how to do technical things, manage the value chain.)
- Think micro (Start small, no tiny. think hyper-local, and expand out from there)
- Compound effort (Our labour compounds over time like interest and investments do, social media takes compound effort)
- Speed is better than perfection (perfection is the enemy of success, launch review and iterate constantly)
- Manage for cash flow not profit (Money in and money out are the only 2 financials that matter, we can’t go broke when cash flow positive)
- We’ve got to sell (Selling is a core skill, we have to sell not just to customers but to everyone in our business world, employees & suppliers too, have a sales guru in your team)
- Start now (The right is never going to come, stop waiting for it)
I was fortunate enough to feature in a story on the ABC 7.30 report this week. The topic was on virtual offices and digital offshoring. My business rentoid got a nice little plug which is a bonus on a non-commercial channel. The opportunity arose from this newspaper article I was in on the topic in the Sydney Morning Herald. Which goes to show media exposure also has a compounding effect for your startup as well.
Although the story and offshoring in general has it’s detractors (unions love the status quo, unless it involves profit increases they want a share in). I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve worked with talented people in developing markets.
- My team get paid more than they’d get locally.
- I’ve helped team members get more work, and mentored them in building their own businesses.
- I like investing in developing markets because improves living standards.
It’s our job as entrepreneurs to create positive situations with tech innovations, and there’s no doubt in my mind having an overseas team does this, while building a business with beneficiaries locally (employees, revenue, community) as well.