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Small companies, namely those employing fewer than 50 people, account for over 99% of all businesses in any country. They are run by people who know their trade. Most of them have been in existence for more than 10 years compared to the job hoppers in large companies who switch positions like musical chairs. The owners of small businesses have seen the good times and bad times and they know how to deal with them.

Small businesses are chameleons and able to adjust quickly to change. By their very nature they are optimistic although typically not risk takers. Once their business is up and running, the proprietor will look after it like a baby.

Small businesses rent properties, buy utilities, spend their money at local wholesalers, and require the services of lawyers and accountants. People selling to a small business do not need a purchase order number. The decision-maker who writes the check is very often the person that picks up the phone. Things happen quickly and easily in small businesses compared to larger organizations.

Small businesses tend to drive innovation. Big companies innovate processes rather than products. In a swathing generalization: Large companies can be both slow at adapting and very defensive of their strong positions, whereas small businesses have a greater ability to be nimble and have, in effect, almost nothing to lose by trying out new ideas.

Governments and large corporates do not understand small businesses. Their culture is completely different. Big businesses speak and sell to big customers and do not comprehend the culture and language of small businesses. They are missing a huge opportunity.

Understanding small businesses is the starting point of doing business with them. It is not enough to think about their trade and activity. Knowing whether a company supplies accounting services or makes X-ray machines is not particularly helpful. It is more useful to know if the company has plans for growth or cash flow problems, or if it is traditional or modern in its business methods. This type of segmentation will ensure that communications aimed at small businesses resonate.

To do business with small companies, it is necessary to have a deep understanding of them in terms of their attitudes and what drives them, how they behave and most crucially what their needs are. Small companies are the Cinderellas of the business world; finding a glass slipper to fit them would make them excellent partners.

Contact Caroline Harrison: [email protected]

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