#WordsofBizdom: Borrow from big business

Simple strategies, tactics and ideas for small businesses to take from their bigger siblings. Adopt, employ and integrate as you see fit

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

Recently, Agility Challenge runner-up winner Phillip Ashley Rix was interviewed by celebrity author and business expert Chris Gardner. This is the third episode in a five-part interview series that highlights successful strategies employed by Rix. Each episode will be complemented by a breakout discussion of the topic, as well as additional strategies for you to consider.

Phillip Ashley Rix has built his designer chocolates business on a foundation of corporate retainers. And while that’s a great strategy for predictable revenue, not everyone has connections to make that a feasible approach.

For most small businesses, a more realistic option is to borrow strategies from, rather than partnering with, the big guys. Universal approaches aren’t trademarked, they’re there for the taking. And you can employ these ideas with less lag time, since you’re more nimble and agile. 

Steal-able strategy #1: Mobile first

Big business: It’s no secret where retail customers are. The same place everyone else is: on their mobile devices. That’s why large enterprises design with a priority on the customer’s interaction with their mobile device. There’s the entire UX—user experience—industry that puts a premium on how people interact with their devices. Only after they have tailored the aesthetic to the handheld experience do they create the laptop and desktop experience.

Your business: Regardless the level of sophistication of your website, you should always lead with a streamlined, potentially responsive experience for the mobile customer. Offer digital coupons in your emails or e-newsletters that a user can simply touch to receive a discount. If you’re a restaurant or retailer, you can partner with a mobile review app or reservation app to offer a discount. Text deals to your phone list of subscribed customers. Mobile customers are also active social channel users, so be sure that your cover images are maximized for mobile viewing.

Steal-able strategy #2: Invest in training/education

Big business: Large companies—those with 10,000 or more employees—spent an average of $13 million on training in 2016. Clearly, they put a premium on training and continuing education. AT&T, for example, provides educational development opportunities through AT&T University (TU), and has provided $34 million in tuition aid for employees pursuing learning outside of the company. As important as it is to grow, it’s important to have a workforce who cares about personal and professional growth.

Your business: Although you may not have the margin to send employees to business or trade school, there are economical ways to educate your staff. Look to local training and networking events, including those hosted by the Small Business Association. Seek out workshops or free seminars that are applicable to your team's various roles. The benefits of an educated work staff are many. Not only are you helping to create future leaders at your business; you’re fostering an environment in which your employees feel valued.

Steal-able strategy #3: Integrate sustainability

Big business: Sustainability isn’t just the word of the moment. Big businesses use it because it’s been proven to have a positive impact on business performance. The conventional notion that you can have either sustainability or profits has been proven wrong many times over. The Harvard Business Review highlights many examples of large businesses that use sustainability for a healthier planet and bottom line, including Walmart and Nike. They mention that, through better routing, truck loading, driver training and advanced technologies, Walmart reduced what they spent in shipping by $11 million over the course of nine years. The same article also outlines how Nike’s Flyknit line uses a new yarn system that has diverted 182 million bottles from landfills while increasing profit margins.

Your business: People love small business because it enhances their sense of community. And you can show that you care about your community by being a good steward of it. While you may not be able to prevent 182 million bottles from ending up in landfills, you can offer recycling solutions, and sustainable or compostable packaging. You can give back a percentage of your profits to local businesses with sustainable missions. And, unencumbered by the processes of big businesses, you can be more sustainable as soon as you can order a blue recycle bin.