3 ways to think big whilst being small


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As the owner of a small or medium-sized business, you may feel like you’re at a terrific disadvantage. Depending on the country and the industry, up to 60% of SMEs go bust within 5 years. Their lower budgets suggest that they can’t possibly compete with the big boys. But smaller businesses have several major advantages over larger ones. Make the most of these!

SME advantage #1: Flexibility

The most important tool at your disposal is flexibility. This might not seem like much, but don’t underestimate it. Big businesses have layers of management hierarchy, meaning that any changes in policy need to be considered and debated before being agreed to, let alone implemented. Small businesses can identify changes that need to be made, agree to them and push them through – all in a matter of days or even hours.

The same flexibility is an advantage on a micro level as well. In big corporations, possible customer service solutions are limited, and managers’ hands are often tied when it comes to things like discounts, special orders and other tailored responses. Small companies have no such constraints. When dealing with individual customers, you have a lot more freedom to come up with the best solution for their particular problem.

SME advantage #2: Personalised service

When it comes to customer service, small is one of your biggest assets. Compact teams can work together on ongoing issues, enabling personal service from beginning to end. Each time a large company receives a customer email or call, it’s handled by a different person, who’ll need a rundown of the issue up to that point. But when a customer gets in touch with a small business for the second or third time, chances are that the same person as before handles his case in a very personal way.

Small teams have no need for artificial metrics and targets like the ones bigger businesses use. That means that when you’re helping out a customer, it takes as long as it takes. The one and only goal is to provide good service; you’re not introducing a conflict of interest by giving employees something else to worry about. (Customer service reps at big companies are sometimes under pressure to get through 15 to 20 emails an hour – try doing that while still getting to the heart of every customer’s query and giving a personal reply!)

SME advantage #3: No budget? No problem!

Big budgets have become less important. A recent report suggests that the Millennial generation trusts people over brands (PDF): they rely on other people’s reviews of companies rather than listening to what the companies themselves say. Combine this knowledge with a couple of low-budget ways to improve your customer service, and you’re good to go.

Sure, it’s understandable that as a small business owner, you tend to look at the things you can’t do and the ways you can’t compete. But don’t forget that you also have major advantages that the big boys in turn can’t compete with. There’s always room for small businesses to grow and thrive. Even in difficult economic times – or should we say, especially then?


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