Most businesses pride themselves on being small – and for good reason. After all, they can provide a much more personal, high-touch level of service than larger enterprises can, staying true to their values without the encumbrances of bureaucracy. But growing businesses can learn a lot from their bigger competitors too, from standardising their operations to automating core processes. And if they’re smart about doing so, they can even end up performing these tricks of the trade better than the big end of town.
Here are four areas where growing businesses can take a leaf out of the enterprise playbook.
AUTOMATED HR HEALTH CHECKS
Almost all businesses rely on the wellbeing of their people to thrive – yet few maintain a consistent approach to developing their employees’ careers. Employees may also wonder just how far they can progress and grow within an organisation that’s relatively small – posing further issues for a company’s talent retention. Yet for most business owners, HR still occupies the “nice to have” slot – something that gets continually pushed downward by more pressing operational issues.
Growing businesses can improve staff engagement and avoid eating up their leaders’ time by adopting the basis of almost all enterprise HR: automated health checks. Whether performance reviews or engagement surveys, these periodic updates help large businesses quickly take the pulse of their people and address any emerging issues before it’s too late. Growing businesses don’t need the large-scale HR platforms of their enterprise counterparts, however. Even a scheduled monthly email, or quarterly online survey, can help them automate this valuable process. And when operating at a much smaller scale, it’s easier to also give employees the one-on-one time when these automated systems do pick up that something’s off-kilter.
Any growing business that deals in physical goods will face the unenviable task of constant supply chain management. And when coordinating inventory and deliveries across multiple operators and points-of-sale, it’s all too easy for mistakes to occur and customer service to suffer. Larger enterprises run logistics management software to tie all aspects of their supply chain together, but those solutions have typically exceeded the budgets of smaller businesses by several orders of magnitude.
The cloud, however, has changed the economics of logistics. ERP platforms like Oracle NetSuite’s, for example, give growing businesses access to the same inventory, fulfilment, and financial management resources as much larger businesses – at a price point that’s scaled to their size. Ideally, these cloud-based platforms will also tie into the software of most major logistics providers, enabling growing businesses to provide a range of new features from order tracking for customers to on-demand inventory filling for store managers. And for growing businesses looking to rapidly expand into new markets, the cloud can usually scale up at a similar pace, allowing them to maintain their lean advantages over larger competitors while literally delivering with comparable enterprise-grade quality.
CLOUD-BASED SUPPLY CHAINS
Admittedly, many growing businesses are already selling online, or thinking of doing so. Where they can often falter, however, is in scale of service. Larger businesses that enter the e-commerce realm typically do so with support for multiple currencies, payment channels, and delivery options. Growing businesses can do the same with a combination of cloud-based supply chains, forming the foundation of the delivery experience; and payments infrastructure that’s geared to take more options rather than less.
Some of the tools that big businesses use in this regard, like Stripe’s payments gateway, were in fact originally designed for growing businesses! It’s worth remembering to ensure that the ERP at the back-end can also deal with multiple currencies to ensure consistency throughout the process.
It’s long been the practice of multinational organisations to outsource anything they can, from IT support and customer service all the way to HR, finance, and marketing. That’s an approach every growing business can also adopt – shaking the tendency of founders to try to do all things, all the time. Nor do they need to outsource at the same price point as big business: virtual assistants, freelancers, and other “contingent workers” can usually provide the necessary assistance at a more reasonable price point than professional services firms. They also tend to be much more flexible and deliver much higher-touch service – mainly because they’re running small businesses of their own!