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Company Culture, Retail & Inventory

5 Ways to Leverage Your Company Culture as a Small Business


It’s a sad fact that the largest companies in an industry or an area have an operating advantage over small businesses. They have the money, the manpower, and often the governmental backing to compete at a higher level.

But that doesn’t mean the so-called little guys are doomed to get steamrollered by Corporate America. Being small carries some things you can leverage to be a David to their Goliath instead of just a Coyote to their Acme-brand steamroller.

  1. Speed of Execution – smaller lag time between good idea and great follow-through

In a big company, any idea has to get pitched to a middle manager, then run by an executive, and probably checked through the legal team. After that, you have endless meetings of liaising with marketing, brainstorming with the engineers, and putting your heads together to proactively think outside the box every step of the way.

In your small business, the idea often happens in the same room with all the important decision makers. There’s no bureaucracy to run the process through, and roles are flexible enough to put the ball in the hands of the people with the most passion.

Upgrade for the win by streamlining even this simple process. When the Next Big Thing hits your company, point to the best, most enthusiastic person for that job and give (reasonable) blanket permission to make it happen.

  1. The Us vs. Them Mentality – making your company smell like team spirit

In a big company, operations are subdivided by department, division, executive territories, and often wide swaths of geography. Too often, the general attitude is of Accounting vs. Executive, Tech Support vs. Marketing, or even Mr. Carlson’s people vs. Ms. Tan’s.

In your small business, most people see everybody else every day. You celebrate the good times together, and the bad times can create a siege mentality bonding. Great things can happen in a business where “Everybody Knows Your Name.”

Upgrade for the win by naming an “Opposing Team” for each quarter. Teams do best when they have somebody to fight, whether that enemy is a rival business, a seasonally slow quarter, or the variables expense budget.

  1. Getting Nichey Wit’ It – celebrating your essential oddness

In a big company, quirk falls to the wayside as the demands of corporate general appeal force people to normalize offerings, message and personality. Starbucks is fine, but it will never compete with the friendly funkiness of your corner independent java stop.

In your small business, you can matter to your top clients because you have a specific enough draw and brand that you’re a part of the community. You needn’t worry about offending demographic groups A and C, because you serve B and serve them well.

Upgrade for the win by being active in the community you serve. Whether it’s snowboarding, board games, or board meeting catering, get on the social media groups and go to the local meetups. Have your finger on the pulse and make the “cool kids” smile at the mention of your brand.

  1. Pitching In– the art on nonspecific job descriptions

In a big company, every wheel has a dozen cogs and each person does one thing. Entire departments are devoted to one set of tasks, and cross-training rarely happens. It’s necessary when dealing with operations of that size, but it’s limiting both to customer service and flawless execution.

In your small business, even if there are specific and precise job descriptions, half the office has more than one job, and chances are almost everybody has some cross training. In the long term, this means better communication and more empathy among team members because people have a better understanding of each other’s jobs. It helps even more in sudden emergencies, since all hands are able to pitch in where needed.

Upgrade for the win by formalizing this and offering bonuses of one kind or another for people who specifically and competently master somebody else’s job.

  1. Total Transparency

In a big company, it’s tough to give the public the full transparency they deserve. Even if legal and PR and HR all say it’s all right to tell the whole truth, it can be tough to track down somebody who knows it. That’s why people don’t trust Corporate America.

In your small business, the face of the company is often the face of the owner. He or she can be online, communicating directly, and with passion about the industry, local events, and the details of the company. When it’s time to say something important – apologizing for a mistake, or announcing big news, for example – your followers will believe you because of your history of openness and transparency.

Upgrade for the win by leveraging this wholesale in your social media presence. 2015 is the year of transparent social engagement, and the more you embrace it the better your company will perform online.

Do you have your own David vs. Goliath small business victory to share? Or another advantage we didn’t list? Sound off in the comments to tell us all about it!