International Business

Going Corporate: Apply These Lessons from Big Business to your Small Business Today

Competitive envy can drive companies mad, cause them to forget who they are, and what it is they do that makes them successful. Do you have to go corporate if you want to grow?

Going Corporate – You can do it!

One thing is universally true: What every small business wants to be is a big business. As a small business owner, you want your business to grow to its full potential, whatever that happens to be. You hope that the sky is the limit. You dream of offices in Milan and a corporate jet at your personal disposal. You don’t want one dry-cleaner in one neighborhood. You want a chain of dry-cleaners that span the globe.

Going Corporate

Between having one dry-cleaner and a world-beating dry-cleaning empire is a stage I call going corporate. That leaves a bad taste in the mouth of many entrepreneurs who became entrepreneurs out of disdain for the corporate world. They naively believe they can reach the stage of mega-success without going corporate. They’re wrong. And that is just one of the many lessons they need to learn from corporate America.

Google is one of the best companies from which to learn this lesson. It started out as a project dreamed up by two college pals. By 2001, Google was very popular. But it was still run by a couple of idealists without a viable business model. That officially changed in March of that year when Eric Schmidt was named Chairman of the Board, and CEO later that year. Google officially jumped the shark and went completely corporate. They never looked back. It was the best move they ever made. Here are two more lessons from major corporations you can apply to your small business right now:

Use Corporate Tools to Enhance Backend Efficiencies

Your tools matter. When startups are new, they often try to get by with the least expensive and least involved tools they can manage. That might seem to make since in the beginning. But those limited tools you used to get up and running can quickly become the very things that end up holding you back.

You can only grow as far as your tools allow. When it comes time for you to grow, you will need to have professional tools that can grow with you, and that you can grow into. Payroll and other HR issues are just one of the categories that can be greatly enhanced by moving to more standard corporate products. ADP.com lays out a few of those issues including the following:

  • Inadequate resources to implement paperless pay, including pay card, online statement and other payment options
  • Managing change in many departments with different requirements
  • Providing service to employees who may have different payment requirements

As your company grows, these challenges just get bigger, and more expensive. Your starter tools are not adequate for the task. Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Big corporations have already worked these issues out. The tools and services they use to streamline their processes and increase backend efficiencies are also available to you. Whenever possible, take advantage of those tried and true solutions. These are the tools that helped other businesses get to where you want yours to be.

Double-down on Your Core Competency

Competitive envy can drive companies mad, cause them to forget who they are, and what it is they do that makes them successful. Under Steve Balmer, Microsoft provided us with a sterling example of what that looked like for one of the most successful companies in the world.

Microsoft became so obsessed with Apple, it appeared they wanted to become Apple. Belatedly, they followed Apple’s lead in music players, phones, and tablets. They even set up retail stores right next to prominent Apple Stores. The Microsoft stores aped the look and feel of the Apple Stores. The only thing Microsoft couldn’t reproduce was consumer traffic in those stores. Balmer confirmed the growing suspicion that Microsoft was obsessed with Apple. Mashable reported:

“We are trying to make absolutely clear we are not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple,” Ballmer told CRN following the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto on Monday. “We are not. No space uncovered that is Apple’s.”

As if that were not clear enough, Balmer went on to say:

“But we are not going to let any piece of this [go uncontested to Apple],” Ballmer shouted. “Not the consumer cloud. Not hardware software innovation. We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself. Not going to happen. Not on our watch.”

The Zune is dead. Windows Phone is on life support. And the Surface is still no iPad killer. Balmer is no longer part of Microsoft.

Satya Nadella, the current CEO, is in the process of returning Microsoft to its strengths. Already, Microsoft is making their best software available to all platforms. And with Windows 10, they will be offering a computer OS for the masses, rather than a much hated tablet OS for pseudo iPads. If Microsoft stays its current course, they will soon be stronger than ever without feeling like they have to be an Apple clone.

On the way to the top, you will be tempted to follow the lead of a rival that takes you beyond your core competency. Don’t do it! Successful companies know who they are, and find ways to innovate in the areas of their competency. You do not have to follow your competition everywhere they go. You just have to be great at what you are.

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