Every entrepreneur knows that starting and growing a small business is a challenge. We don’t have the enormous resources – financial and otherwise – that the big guys do, and we don’t have the benefit of name recognition. Being the underdog is tough, and there’s no denying it.
But small business does have one huge advantage: we’re able to act much more quickly than a big business with layers of formal procedures that are required for any decision. Small business can react with lightning speed, and while speed has long been an advantage of sorts, the current, rapidly changing business climate makes it not just a luxury, but rather a necessity.
Think about it: if you’re not on Twitter and you decide that your company needs a Twitter presence, you could actually make that happen in a matter of minutes. A big company would have dozens of hoops to jump through, and it might take weeks to actually get the account up and running. You can act right away, and that’s to your benefit.
Consider the example of Kindle Unlimited, the new program for Amazon that lets subscribers read an unlimited number of books for a monthly fee. While authors like me, with self-published books, can make the decision to participate in the program right away, the large publishing houses haven’t jumped in yet. Decision making is a much slower process in a big business.
Being quick is also a huge advantage for small businesses when it comes to acquiring and using new technology. There’s a new virtual trade show program, for example, that lets users interact in a variety of public spaces which fosters the exchange of ideas and sharing of new products, and also offers more private spaces for confidential negotiations. Can you imagine how long it would take a big business to put together a training session and set of guidelines for using the virtual trade show program? Again, the entrepreneur can be up and running in no time.
Given the increase in public feedback – in the form of reviews – that’s available for nearly every category of business, small, agile businesses who can respond to customer reviews can not only address problems right away, but they can also shape public perception of the company based on the skillful handling and resolution of complaints. When you see a review of a restaurant and a thoughtful response from the chef/owner, you know that the restaurant cares about its customers. A larger chain would have its managers busy recording the nightly levels in each liquor bottle – too busy to personally review and handle on line customer complaints. As new forums for consumer interaction and review crop up each day, big businesses may be being reviewed on sites they’re not even aware of. There is a conversation going on about your business. You have the ability to get involved in that conversation.
What it comes down to is that speed isn’t just an advantage in our current business climate. It’s a necessity. A lumbering beast of a company who needs a committee and a month’s time to review, discuss, and plan every single change is at a marked disadvantage in a marketplace that favors flexibility, agility, and lightning speed.
Consumers love the underdog. Big corporations headed by greedy CEOs who bring in $8 billion in bonuses don’t have the same consumer appeal as the small business owner struggling to get a fledgling business off the ground. Establishing yourself as a productive member of your community and trading on your position as a challenger of the status quo will earn you attention and support. Wielding your quick response time and ability to act on a moment’s notice will pay dividends that big business can’t hope to match.