10 Business Lessons from Tech Giants
1. Take Data Seriously
Tech firms, unsurprisingly, trust data to be their best guiding light.
Take Google, for an example. They believe in learning about customer habits through data analytics. To serve this end, they use big data research software to save 20 billion search pages every single day.
Believe it or not, but big data is even more advantageous if you’re a small business. Small businesses do not suffer from the complexity of bigger firms. Thus, they are flexible enough to quickly implement changes proposed by data intelligence.
2. Take Risks without Risking Your Company
No company has ever made it big without taking risks but no company has ever survived after risking it all.
Nation Multimedia reports that Grove, the founder of Intel, wanted a monopoly over the microprocessor industry. This required him patenting Intel’s unmatchable memory chips – and that was going to take a lot of money. Still a relatively new company, this would have been a huge risk for Intel, except Grove was careful enough to leave behind enough money to keep his company going. In the meantime, Intel’s microprocessors were marketed as the best in the industry (which they were) and clients started flocking to them.
Small businesses need to be extra cautious here. Yes, risk-taking is necessary, but remember that a smaller business is more susceptible to failure. Risk evaluation, SWOT analysis of business decisions and crisis management, are all ways that you can plan for the short-term while keeping your eyes on your long-term goals.
3. Long-term Planning Vs Short-term Planning
While short-term goals are like fuel for everyday activities, it’s your long-term goals that will decide your fate.
Amazon has been around since 1994 but it wasn’t until 2001 that it first reported a profit (of only $5 million). Then, after a long dry spell, Amazon surprised critics with unprecedented growth and profit numbers in 2015.
Jeff Bezos’ belief in long-term planning is notoriously well-known. Once, when asked about Amazon’s monetary returns in a specific year, he was unable to recall the numbers, citing that Amazon’s future occupied his mind. The firm that couldn’t generate profits until a few years ago is the retail star of today.
Link this with lesson #2. Take risks for long-term growth. It doesn’t matter if you generate losses in the short-term, as long as you can stay afloat. It’s the future you
4. Don’t Surround Yourself with Yes Men
People who agree with everything you say will only disillusion you.
People who defy you, challenge you and never accept your decisions outright are the ones who care enough about the company to not care about its owner’s feelings.
Steve Jobs was a notoriously rude, impatient and discourteous man but his uncivil behavior was born out of a fierce desire to work with only those who were as brilliant as him, if not more.
With this appreciation of genius in others, he was able to build a closely knit, fiercely loyal managing team for Apple, with top level employees lasting longer than they did in other firms. Steve Wozniak, too, has admitted to not having the leadership prowess Jobs inspired.
Small business owners have a real opportunity to build a compact group of intellects who don’t necessarily agree with everything owners say, but who genuinely want the company to conquer its market – not for money, but for immortality.
5. Don’t be Motivated by Money
If getting rich is the primary reason you started your business, you just haven’t dreamt big enough.
Larry Page, Google’s famous co-founder, has often said that making money has never been the primary driving force behind Google.
Money has always been a side-effect – albeit a great one – of Google’s true purpose, which is their desire to be pioneers in the fields of IT and universal connectivity. If they wanted money, they would have simply “sold the company a long time ago and ended up on a beach.”
Again, your vision for the future should never be far from your mind. Frequently ask yourself where you see your company in, say, 10 years. If the answer contains the word money in any context, you might as well give up on your dream of becoming the next Google or Apple.
However, dreaming big isn’t enough. You’ve got to get in bed with your industry and understand its fundamental dynamics.
6. Design Core Strategies Based on Consistency
Your core values must be based on industry dynamics and fundamentals that you’re sure will never change. This way, you will always stay true to the reason you first started your company.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, in a 2002 statement published on Kissmetrics’ blog, said that he is frequently asked what he thinks will change in the next 10 years. However, surprisingly (for him), he has never been asked what won’t change in the next 10 years.
Bezos believes in building the core strategies of one’s company on things that have the least likelihood of changing overtime. For example, he says that he knows customers want lowest possible prices and this will still be true ten years later. Therefore, that is one core value Amazon will stay true towards.
Similarly, small businesses need to understand the core values of their industry – what are the things that will never change? Figure out the answer to this question and base your vision and your future decisions on them. Instill this idea into your work-force and give them the freedom to let their creative juices flow.
7. An Employee-Friendly Work Environment
A workplace that gives your employees the coziness of their houses, combined with the luxury of a five-star hotel, will encourage them to be more imaginative.
Most firms operating in Silicon Valley have created an incredibly casual environment that encourages innovation by allowing employees the space they need to think, operate and invent the future of IT.
At Google, employees have the freedom to take power naps during work hours. Facebook’s gourmet-style café promotes a collaborative environment. Overall, the culture promotes employee appreciation through onsite perks, unlimited vacation time, no fixed workstation and company-sponsored residences.
While small firms may not be able to patron their employees on the same level as Silicon Valley, they can still foster a free-spirited environment, provided that they hire employees who are smart, hardworking, sincere and who truly want to make it big in their relevant industry.
Speaking of elegant workplaces, your company’s style statement shouldn’t end there.
8. Appearances Do Matter
If you’re charging a load for your products, they must look the part, too. If not, it should still catch your customer’s eye.
For Steve Jobs, the presentation of his company and products was just as important as the product itself. He firmly believed that if the iPhone did not look revolutionary (read: expensive), no one would believe it to be ground-breaking.
In 1984, Jobs spent a lot of time obsessing over the theme, color and size of the Macintosh’s packaging. The box designs for the iPhone and iPod were Apple patents. He believed in the unbox therapy, calling it the beginning of the customer’s journey with the product.
This isn’t to say that small businesses must now start obsessing over boxes, even though they are how you initially get in touch with your customers and how you attract them towards you. Appearances can include anything from the ambience of your shop, your website’s experience or an advertisement.
Appearances, however, have more to do with your product than your industry. If it’s the market you’re looking to capture, you need to look at your competitors.
9. Identify Your Real Competitors
Competitors aren’t only those who have the same customers as yours. Your competitors include all firms vying for resources that are integral for your survival.
Bill Gates was once questioned who he thought his greatest competitors were. He responded that banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were the major threats to Microsoft.
Explaining his choice, he said that he considered his greatest competitors to be companies that have the best IQ resources, since Microsoft was foremost an IQ firm. He believed that smart guys would automatically prefer Microsoft over other IT firms, but people with real IQs were what Microsoft needed the most.
Recruiting the most brilliant people in the world is what Gates believes has made the company into what it is now.
Similarly, small business owners need to realize which resources are absolutely essential for business growth, where these resources lie and how they can be lured towards your company.
Still, it all comes down to our last point.
10. Never Stop Innovating
Innovation is the gist of everything that we have been discussing in this article.
Innovation is why you need to plan long-term, it is why you need brilliant people who challenge you and it is why you need to foster friendly environments.
At Amazon, Jeff Bezos keeps reinvesting almost all of Amazon’s revenues towards projects he’s envisioned for the future. At Apple, Jobs laid stress on building machines customers don’t always know they need.
Small business owners must lay stress on how important it is to bring something new to the table. You aren’t going to be much in demand if what you’re offering is exactly what a hundred others have offered before you.
There is probably no known recipe for immediate success for any new startup. However, there is a lot to learn from observing those who have defied the odds and truly risen to write their names in history books. No matter what you take away from this list, you must remember that without your own hard work and dedication, none of these pointers will help.