Small businesses don’t get the credit they deserve. With National Small Business Week upon us, it’s time to put the spotlight on what can help them succeed. Small businesses are a major driver of progress and innovation, accounting for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity. They are our neighbors — the baker, the builder, the banker, the stores that provide for our everyday needs and the startups that create solutions to drive our nation forward.
The challenges for small businesses, though, aren’t getting any easier. Markets and consumer demands are changing fast. Big companies will always have more resources to try to copy or catch up to ideas. I’ve seen these challenges first-hand running a home-building business and then starting a regional bank.
Here are a few guiding principles I’ve used with my own businesses that can help other small businesses grow too:
- Ask “What’s next?” and plan for “What if?”: We’re in an age of disruption, where whole industries are being transformed. Amazon is reshaping retail. Fintechs are altering the financial world. Don’t count on the status quo to continue, because it won’t.
- Embrace own disruption: Continually look for ways to expand your capabilities and improve your services. Don’t be afraid to scrap a business model for a fresh approach. Use your size to your advantage … be agile.
- Secure your future (and your clients’ too): Cyber threats for small businesses are all too real and can drain your assets fast. I’m amazed at some small businesses that let their guards down and give away access to financial accounts. Protect your resources.
- Stay focused on solving client issues: As your business grows, operations will get more complex. Resist the urge to get pulled into internal struggles and issues. Stay focused on serving the clients. Their needs and demands will put you on the right path.
- Put data and technology to work for you: Every company, including small businesses, should think of itself as a tech company. Leverage your data to gain insights on what’s working. Invest in technology that reduces friction in your business and benefits the client.
- Find partners that share your vision and value your business: Find partners that serve your needs too. Don’t settle for sub-par service because you’re a small business. There are plenty of companies that want your business and can support your growth.
With all the changes taking place in the economy today, the future can be daunting, but there is an abundance of opportunities for small businesses in almost every field. Just look at banking — an industry that’s traditionally slow to adopt change is going through radical shifts, forcing existing players to reinvent themselves as new competitors emerge each day.
Consumers are more open than ever to try something new, especially if you are providing the product or service in a better, faster or more convenient way. Seize this moment. Disruption opens spaces in the market for smaller players to enter and succeed.