Small businesses have resources that their managers or owners don’t always fully exploit. When I owned a small business for more than ten years, I learned to maximize every asset I had. You need to properly manage all the hidden assets your company holds, and help them grow. As a small enterprise, you have some disadvantages in competing with the big corporations; but you have some advantages too. Use everything in your arsenal to compete.
Frequent Flier Miles
If you fly often for business, make sure you’re using the same airline or airline network as often as possible, and rack up the miles. These miles will add up to give you extra free flights or perks on future business travel. That’s an asset that too many independent business owners just shrug off. I’ve heard many small business owners indicate they’re too busy to bother with such, under the belief it will take hundreds of flights to get anything free. This isn’t true: you can get a free flight or perk after just a few well timed paid flights, especially if you’re flying business class. Don’t throw anything away, including miles. Most large corporations don’t get these miles, their employees do. Its the person flying who get them. In the case of a small business, that’s likely you, the owner.
If your distributors and suppliers offer you credit, take it! Even if your bank has given you a nice line of credit for all your expenses. Credit is a resource, and it has a great value at key times in your business operations. Get all you can, and use it for early holiday merchandise stocking, and other expansion plans. Some suppliers will sweeten the credit line to 0% to get your business. Try to negotiate for a good credit line deal, even if you don’t need it right now.
Small businesses have more “local community” goodwill than large corporations. You may be a neighborhood coffee shop that gets more “street cred” than the large corporate coffee magnet across the street. Use this to your advantage, and don’t squander it. Stress your local appeal, and host local promotions. Don’t try to compete with the big corporations as one of them, but instead as the little guy who’s on the local community side. The big guys can’t do this; you can! Use this as a resource in your marketing and operations.
Personal Customer Service
In small enterprises, the employees tend to stay on longer and become part of the company family. This tends to lead to a happier working environment, and a general incentive to do a better job. Customer service will show through with a personal touch from happy employees. The customers will likely notice this. Cultivate this extra resource by offering profit-based bonuses to your staff, and include them in events that inspire the company family feeling.
Ability to Update
It’s easier for a small business with only a couple computers to stay up to date, versus a chain that would have to purchase a 1000 new machines. You can stay current with all the new hardware and software, and this may help you to edge out the competition. New sotware updates and installations will be easier for you with just the few machines to maintain.
Another advantage small businesses have: they can be more flexible. It’s hard for a large corporate chain to change directions during an economic shift, from one product specialty to another. Smaller enterprises can do this on a dime. I owned a comic book shop for a decade, and 4 years into it I added games, then videos, then shifted to more of a video rental outlet. Eventually the comic trade moved back into favor, and the store was split into video rentals and comics, two shops in one. Meanwhile, I survived for several years by shifting focus a few degrees.