While it might be a mark of pride to do things differently, when it comes to starting a business versus joining one, you're starting off on a profoundly unique journey. There's nothing else like a startup in the business world, but that doesn't mean you can't learn from the Inc 500 companies. Think about all the major brands you know today and you’ll see that Google and Apple continue to do things differently to stay ahead of the curve.
What do they all have in common?
They were startups once - and they have become some of the most successful brands in the world today. It’s proof that, as a startup, you can accomplish absolutely anything. There are some practices that all companies should adopt from big brands, and your startup is no exception.
1. Make a Skunkworks
The bureaucratic nature of a lot of big companies makes innovation a lot harder than you think. When you have to answer to the board, investors, shareholders, managers, and anyone else with an interest you can spend most of your time in meetings, rather than on the factory floor.
This is why so many corporations are actually umbrellas. They have lots of different brands underneath a single banner, with the goal of operating with the relative freedom of a startup.
At this point, you may be wondering why you as a startup would need to worry about any of this. The truth is that your startup is more conservative than you think. You are concerned with staying afloat and therefore you are doing innovation wrong. It leads to a lack of risk-taking and a lack of creativity.
This is why a small group that has authorization to shoot for the stars or crash and burn can be of huge benefit. It ensures that you can continue to innovate and that you are always on the cutting edge of your niche.
You can donate as much or as little as you like to your skunkworks. See it as a separate arm of your business and adjust it based on the current market conditions and the performance of your organization. Just keep it going at all times.
2. Take Ownership of Your P&L
The Profit & Loss sheet is the definition of success and failure. Manage your bottom line well and you can rightly post that you are a success. Big companies tend to be in the black, whereas startups are in the red for many years. What’s the difference between the way a corporation handles their P&L versus a startup?
A corporation has control because they are not borrowing huge amounts of money. They are not answerable to lenders who want their money back. Startups often are, and that means their decisions are influenced by the need to maintain a high company valuation and to deliver effective returns.
Sometimes it can be better to adopt the big company approach of controlling your own destiny. An increasing number of startups are deciding to opt for the bootstrapping approach - with 80% doing so according to this study - over seeking out huge amounts of private investment. And this may be the answer for your company.
3. Approach Things Differently
Entrepreneurs are creative by nature and approach life differently. Big companies are nearly always shaped by leaders who do things differently. There’s a reason why Apple, Starbucks, and Microsoft continue to survive and thrive as the top dogs of their respective industries. They are approaching things differently and they are bringing out new innovations on an annual basis.
Startups often begin like this, but once they find something that works it doesn’t take long for them to enter a period of complete stagnation. They become content with what they have and fear holds them back from innovating further; just in case it happens to fail.
You can’t fall into the trap of complacency.
Approach things differently by innovating as if you haven’t hit upon the right solution yet. Continue to innovate as if the survival of your company relies on it, and keep bringing in people who can provide a fresh perspective on your work. This is precisely what the great leaders of today do. You should copy the big brands, who are constantly coming out with new products and features to serve their customers.
Small and Big Companies Have a Lot in Common
You’ll be surprised at just how much a small startup and a huge corporation has in common. Big corporations didn’t become big by accident. They became big because they stayed true to their entrepreneurial values. It’s true that their processes may have changed and their responsibilities have diversified, but at heart their leaders are the same curious individuals that started their companies many years before.
Adopt the same approach and look to the big guys as inspiration for your startup. What do you think is the most important big company practice you need to adopt?