Small businesses are known for being innovative and resourceful, whether it’s because those traits are part of their image and values or because they have to operate on minimal resources. No matter the reason, they employ some seriously smart strategies and thrive on them.
From organization to creativity, there are plenty of lessons big businesses can learn from their smaller—but often more innovative—counterparts. Below, 10 members of Forbes Business Council discuss various ways that big businesses can look to small ones for innovation tips.
- Think of the business as a franchise
Small businesses often look to franchising for expansion. While franchising may not make sense for large businesses, they can still find ways to innovate through thinking of their business as a franchise. If they document and systematize marketing, operations and sourcing as if they were planning to replicate themselves in new markets, they could find opportunities for innovation and streamlining. – Jon Ostenson, FranBridge Consulting and Capital
- Maintain a strong culture when scaling
Employees are the true value of any business, and sometimes this key principle is lost as businesses grow. One innovative tip big businesses can look to small businesses for is how to maintain a strong culture as they scale. Small businesses tend to scale in a “pod-like” structure, which makes people management tailored and focused on culture-driven productivity. – Nkem Okeke, Medicalincs
- Execute transactions in a timely manner
One difference between big and small businesses is the number of departments that a single transaction can pass through. There’s a tendency for small companies to promptly respond since they have a flat hierarchy inside. Yes, filtering (for example, marketing content) is advantageous, but in any business, time is expensive. Rapid and timely execution is essential. – Lane Kawaoka, SimplePassiveCashflow.com
- Respond quickly to customer feedback
The most important thing to remember is to not overcomplicate processes. Small businesses do this by necessity, but the more people you put between the customer and decision maker, the lower the customer satisfaction. By empowering people close to the decision, and only bringing in people with an essential purpose, you respond quickly to customer feedback, increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty and profits. – Tejas Dave, Avasam
- Optimize concept to execution timeline
Something small businesses do well is optimizing the concept to execution timeline. In larger companies, the process of conducting market research and developing a marketable product is often slowed down by bulky workflows and coordinating schedules. Smaller businesses are much more adept at moving from the strategic to execution stages—a process that big companies can look to for inspiration. – Zach Boyette, Galactic Fed
- Create Smaller, self-organizing teams
Create smaller, self-organizing teams around specific problems with one metric as Amazon does. This comes from the way small companies operate. Allow these teams to operate as a small company does with a lean process of innovating, creating MVP, failing fast and pivoting as needed. Give them the time they need and don’t subject them to too much bureaucracy or micromanagement. – Gabriel Smith, Pricefx
- Be able to react and pivot quickly
Smaller teams mean big businesses can react and pivot more quickly when needed. I think about the maturity of the entertainment business, for example, that’s kept TV networks from understanding that a TV is just a monitor in which you input content, as opposed to a “thing” that humans will keep watching with commercials. Changing your mind is good. – Alyson Dutch, Brown + Dutch PR, Inc. / Consumer Product Events
- Allow for quick and easy collaboration
Ask yourself this question: “Do your people know what to do if they have a good idea?” That may seem simple, but the answer in many large organizations is “no.” Small companies often have entrepreneurial people with less red tape and bureaucracy to navigate. When they have great ideas, they can quickly and easily collaborate with their smaller team and quickly implement them. – Jordan Smith, Jet Dental
- Focus on engaging more with customers
Small businesses by nature are experts in customer service. They know who their customer is and create impactful human relationships with them on a daily basis. Large businesses are often far removed from the end user and get distracted by running complex large enterprises. As a big business, are there ways you can engage more with your customer and make them the focus of every decision you make? – John Swigart, Pie Insurance
- Encourage pilot projects
Encourage pilot projects and allow room for error. Small businesses excel in agility, speed of implementation and leeway to make mistakes. As businesses grow, policies, procedures and processes become more important to maintain the brand experience, but they can hinder innovation and progress. When big businesses reduce the red tape from these processes, innovation can accelerate. – Kevin Coker, Proxima Clinical Research, Inc.