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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Brie

4 Best Practices Start-ups and SMBs Can Learn from Big Businesses

Small businesses are far from insignificant. As a strong source of new jobs (about 65% of them), they’re an economic driver. However, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 20% of small businesses fail in their first year.

Worse, the pandemic, as well as everything that has happened subsequently, has increased the pressure. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), like big businesses, have been compelled to become more agile in order to keep up with an ever-changing market. They can't afford to make any missteps now that new uncertainties are arising in the form of inflation, supply chain disruptions, and rising interest rates.

So, if you're the owner or operator of a small business, how can you maintain a growth mindset in this environment? You take a page from the big business handbook.

Even in the face of recent uncertainty, big corporate leaders have made agility, flexibility, and scalability their keywords, and SMB owners and operators can learn a thing or two from them. The best practices listed below can help you keep your operations running smoothly and free up your time to focus on your growth objectives.

1. Embrace the Process

The early stages of a business can be chaotic. It can be difficult to prioritize where to start when there are so many tasks to complete. Often businesses just want to get started on whatever product or service they’re working on and get it out to the public as soon as possible, yet they forget to take a step back and focus on the business and operations themselves.

Big businesses have precise processes in place to guide all of the company's operations. To name a few, there are hiring procedures, product development processes, sales processes, and financial planning processes. These processes are well-documented and constantly evolving as teams look for new methods to increase efficiencies and improve their operations.

If you're the owner of a small business and want to keep it growing, take a page from big business and embrace the process. A set of defined and documented processes can help your SMB gain efficiencies, provide a consistent experience for customers and employees, and ensure that everything is done to the same standard every time, regardless of who is doing it or when it is done.

In the best practices that follow, we'll delve a little deeper into some of the financial and operational processes that your SMB can benefit from.

2. Prioritizing Building the Right Team

Your employees are there to support your goals, so it’s not surprising that the right team will help you achieve them faster. And big businesses recognize that in order to achieve their objectives, they must invest in creating the best team possible. This doesn't imply that you should hire the person with the most experience; instead, look for skill sets that will add value to your business and support the values you’re building it on. You want individuals who are eager to learn more and who aren't hesitant to contribute their own ideas when it makes sense. While small businesses may be looking for ways to save money wherever they can, the best big businesses know that getting the best talent sometimes requires paying a little more—and investing in the training their employees require to succeed.

SMBs can benefit from the same workforce planning processes that big businesses use to help them construct their ideal team and keep them ready for the job at hand. Strategic workforce planning can assist you in identifying the skills you require, developing an onboarding procedure, and determining continuing training needs. All of this is done to ensure that your company is ready for the next challenge and that your employees are pleased in their positions on your way to getting there.

3. Invest in Technologies

In a survey of over 2,500 small and medium business owners and leaders for Salesforce's 2021 Small and Medium Business Trends Report, 71% of expanding SMBs stated digitization helped them survive the pandemic. In August 2021, 42% of those growing SMBs said they’d accelerated their technology investments over the previous year.

What were the reasons those companies upped their technology investment? Improving business agility (59%), increasing productivity (58%) and increasing data security (52%) were the top three reasons. Meanwhile, 28% stated they wanted data to be stored in a central location.

Big businesses recognize that the right technology can help you improve the efficiency of your workflow, minimize the risk of human error, and enable you to build the defined processes we discussed earlier. Sure, a small start up might be able to manage patient files by hand. It might be easy to call each and every individual and remind them when it’s time for an annual exam. Is that workflow, however, scalable as the company grows to four times its current size? In the healthcare sector, big businesses have been quick to recognize that technology can be a critical driver in improving productivity, increasing agility, building better data practices, and ultimately, creating better client experiences.

4. Eye on the Prize

Big companies have clear goals and carefully choose key performance indicators (KPIs) that allow them to track their progress toward achieving them. And they're always strategizing on how to better their performance and achieve their objectives faster (at which point they set all new goals).

But, especially in the last two years, big businesses have realized the significance of keeping their goals and the processes that support them agile so that they can pivot as needed in response to changing market, industry, and business demands. They use scenario modeling to ensure they're prepared for whatever the future holds, as well as real-time data and rolling forecasts to ensure their budget is always in line with their current business requirements.

SMBs need strong goals, as well as the flexibility to change them on the fly. And, as big businesses have discovered, the processes and technologies you use today will help you stay agile in the future. Just like them, processes such as scenario modeling and rolling forecasting might be the answer to your ongoing success.


Big businesses have grown in size not merely because they have a product or service that is in high demand. Demand can only take you so far. Most big businesses have also figured out how to drive growth, measure performance, and select the proper people, processes, and technology to help them achieve their objectives. As they expand their successful business, small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from many of the same best practices.

After all, shouldn't you be thinking big from the start if your goal is to continue scaling your SMB?

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