Small Business Lessons From the Stock Market


BOSTON (TheStreet) — As entrepreneurs launch and expand small businesses, they should consider the lessons offered by the successes and mistakes of America's largest companies.

Small and large businesses have their unique strengths. Small businesses have the agility to put mass in motion with ease. Large companies have the advantages of maturity — access to credit, established brands and resources.

But small businesses often overlook many of the valuable strategies that can get put them on growth trajectories:

Adopt lean practices: It's not just for Toyota anymore. While manufacturing is where the lean business philosophy was born and first applied, many businesses and industries are adopting these practices and finding success. In particular, health care companies, such as Eli Lilly, has begun adopting lean strategies to eliminate waste, reduce costs and improve quality.

A small business that adopts lean practices will save money and resources as it grows. For new businesses, improving quality is crucial to survival.

Market like you mean it: Companies like Dell, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Apple work very hard — and spend a lot of money — to understand and market to their audiences. But sweat equity can buy an awful lot for small businesses these days. Cheap (and often free) technology and communication options — such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — can connect a new business with customers and scores of prospects quickly and efficiently. The large corporations mentioned above have embraced new media for a reason and you should too.

Adopt a service mentality: When talk of the "service economy" comes up many entrepreneurs cringe, thinking that it means working in the fast-food industry. But large corporations offer advanced services around their products to build value. You can and should follow suit. The right value-added services for your customers can differentiate your business from your competition.

Focus: General Motors recently began shedding brands to concentrate on rebuilding. Risk-taking is important in any business. But avoid adding too many products, brands or services. As GM found, the costs can be severe and the solutions painful.

The differences between your small business and IBM are significant. But using large companies as benchmarks for some of your strategies and tactics can give you valuable insight and a roadmap for your business' future.

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