Six Lessons Learned from Large Corporations

Another Monday morning, and there you are ensconced in front of your PC ready to start the day's work, all warm and comfortable in old sweats with your funny-bunny slippers on your feet. As you sip freshly-brewed coffee from the mug (printed with your company logo), you glance out the window and see your neighbor running toward her car. She's wearing her navy blue "power suit", white blouse and navy high heels. She holds an overflowing coffee cup in one hand and an attache case in the other. With a bagel jammed into her grimacing mouth, she stands there for a moment trying to figure out how to open her car door. When she finally pulls away, rushing to her corporate job, you sigh and think, "Boy, do we live in two separate worlds!". Not so. Take a closer look. See how the lessons learned in her corporate world are directly applicable to your small business.

Lesson #1 -Learn to plan ahead.

Large corporations require careful planning. Managers are expected to turn in detailed plans for the next calendar year in August of the current year. Documentation about how specific products and services will be sold are noted. Projections of expected revenue and expenses are detailed and illustrated by various charts and graphs. A less-detailed five year plan is presented together with the twelve-month plan to the company directors. Careful determination is made up front regarding future business ventures. Can you predict your business outlook for the months of April, May, and June? Wouldn't detailed planning help you to realize your business goals?

Lesson #2 - Understand industry drivers.

Walk into a high level meeting of a corporation on any given day, and there's bound to be a discussion of "industry drivers." By understanding what drives the customer's industry, you can determine how to leverage the drivers, and how to provide better service and better products for customers.

For example, look around at the rapid growth of take-out chicken restaurants. Lots of competition for the same consumer audience. If it's your job to produce ad copy for one of these restaurants, you need to understand the demographics of the customers. Are they health conscious, preferring broiled chicken and steamed vegetables? Do they have young children who demand fried chicken and French fries? What can you put in your ad copy that will make them chose your client, and not the competition? It's the preferences of the customer base that represents the industry driver. When we understand what makes our customer successful, we understand the concept of industry drivers. Do you know what makes your customerºs business a success?

Lesson # 3 - Request report cards.

Successful corporations do not play the game of "if only the customer would go away, we could get our work done!" Successful corporations know that their number one priority is customer satisfaction. And they are diligent about measuring their success. There are frequent customer meetings to ensure that customers' needs are met by the work performed. Surveys are conducted on a regular basis. Upper management contacts customers directly to inquire how the team is performing on the contract. Presentations are conducted that highlight the corporation's accomplishments in order that they be noted in the customer surveys. Have you asked your customer for your report card lately?

Lesson # 4 - Know the competition.

Large corporations have entire departments dedicated to competitive analysis. The department is totally focused on the competition for the corporation's products and services. The competitive analysis team analyzes the success ratio of the product, the financial aspects, and the competitor's presence in the industry. Competitive analysis is so critical to the success or failure of a large corporation that large numbers of consultants are brought in to assist with the process. Armed with this critical knowledge, large corporations carefully prepare for the bid and proposal arena. While small businesses obviously cannot afford entire departments or even an extra person devoted to competitive analysis, can you afford not to keep an eye on your competition?

Lesson # 5 - If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

While examining the competition, large corporations will frequently make the decision that they actually need to team with the competition in order to win a large piece of business. The synergy of two or even three large companies will present an unbeatable team. Even if you're not the "primary" on the contract, it becomes a "win-win" situation for all the companies involved in the bid for business. Look around at your competition. Is there anyone you can team with to present an even stronger, united front for success?

Lesson # 6 - Think globally.

Large corporations are always urging team members to think globally. This concept refers to conducting business on an international scale, and getting out of "the box" of focusing only on current products, current services, current customers, current locations. It involves becoming a visionary, and dedicating time to learning about the corporation's future industry, as well as the customer's future industry. It involves taking action now in order to be an active player in the future. Do you know the future plans of your customer ? Why not hold a global planning session together? Can you support them in getting out of "the box"? Provide the visionary leadership that will move you both toward a successful future.

So next time you see your corporate neighbor rushing toward her car, gently tap on your window to get her attention. When she looks up at you, bagel in mouth, raise one of your funny-bunny slippers in a salute. After all, the two of you, corporate and small business, really do share a lot of the lessons!