Startups are supposed to the disruptors, the innovators, the new kids on the block who’ll shake things up and do it all differently. They’re not like the big boys – those large corporations who are stuck in the mud, focused on doing things the traditional way.
At least, that’s how the stereotype goes. While much is written about what large corporations can learn from their much smaller rivals, fledgling firms would do well to look at the successes of larger companies and adopt some of their ways of working.
Here are five things startups can learn from big companies.
Processes and structures aren’t cool. They’re not very ‘startup’, right? Startups should be flexible, agile, not bogged down in rigid ways of working…or should they? Large companies are defined by having established ways of doing things, and they don’t have them just because they’re traditionalists – they have them because they work.
Life as a startup can be chaotic. So much to do, and so little time to do it. Where to start? What to prioritise first? How to execute everything? Processes help you do this. They establish patterns of working and help you develop your business in an organised, strategic way. They’ll save you time, too.
Define your vision
Big brands have got to where they are because they have an ethos, and have successfully communicated that ethos to their customers. It’s all about vision. Startups can be tempted to try and offer their customers everything – in fact, the companies that specialise in what they’re good at tend to do better.
So, start by finding out who you really are. What do you do? Why do you do it? Who is your customer? How can you help them? Answer these questions and you have the beginnings of a company vision – one that will help guide everything you do.
Be risk-averse (but not always)
Startups are supposed to have scant regard for caution, embracing risk and danger in the pursuit of success. Big firms, on the other hand, are more wary, only deciding to take risks once they’ve weighed everything up.
Actually, being risk-averse isn’t so bad a thing. Big companies are cautious because they’ve probably learned from experience that taking wanton risks isn’t always the best approach. If you’re a startup with minimal financial resources, taking a risk couldn’t just be a bad idea, it could destroy your business. So, always sit back and look at the bigger picture. That’s not to say you should never take risks – just make sure you take the right ones.
Invest in corporate social responsibility
Lots of big companies and well-known brands have fully-fledged corporate social responsibility programmes: initiatives focusing on how they can contribute to environmental and social well-being. This sees businesses invest in their communities, empower their staff to try new things, and ensure that making money is not their sole motivation.
In your company, a CSR programme could be anything from a work-experience project with a local school, a quarterly volunteering day, or a charity-savings scheme. With research from Wink Bingo showing that 34% of people give to charity, the appetite for such schemes clearly exist.
Focus on why things go wrong
Big companies spend a lot of time reviewing failure, whether it’s a product that’s failed to take off, hiring problems, poor financial results, or something else entirely. For startups, it can be easy to shrug off failure, forget about it, and focus on the next thing.
Actually, taking time to focus on failure is extremely important. Figuring out why something hasn’t worked out will help you ensure you don’t make the same mistake next time. It might be tempting to just concentrate on the next thing, but focusing on what didn’t work can pay dividends.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.