What Small Businesses Can Learn From Large Tech Innovators


What do innovators and leaders in the world of technology have in common with your business? Your immediate answer might be “not much” – these innovators lead especially large companies focusing heavily on research and experimentation with lots of outside funding, after all.

However, a closer look reveals plenty of similarities between these entrepreneurs and small business owners across the country. Many started with little more than an idea or basic business plan and worked hard to develop it. Some put in long hours at other jobs to build up enough funds to start seeing their visions into reality. All have taken pride in the growth of their companies and continually plan to grow them – or start a new one.

With these shared characteristics in mind, let’s look at some of the most relevant business advice for small business owners from some of the world’s largest tech innovators:

Overcoming early obstacles and developing a strong concept

Don Charlton is the founder of Resumator, an online recruiting software used by more than 6,500 companies, including a number of other technology-focused organizations. In an interview with Black Enterprise, he said small business owners should be prepared to put in a lot of work over a long period of time if they want to see success. However, this approach also pays off when the time comes to grow, whether that means seeking outside support, selling a business or making another major financial decision.

Investing a lot of time and effort in a focused and productive way ultimately yields a quality product, whether your chosen field is developing software or operating a thriving local business. When your company can demonstrate the value of the service or goods it provides, it’s far easier to stand out among competitors and continue to grow.

Of course, finding funding isn’t always as easy for small business owners as it is for tech innovators. If you need a boost in available capital quickly, consider options like small business capital loans.

Seek feedback early and often

Elon Musk is one of the most recognizable and successful entrepreneurs in the U.S. From his electric car company Tesla to solar power group Solar City and private space transport organization SpaceX, Musk has demonstrated his mind for business. With one of Musk’s long-term goals being the colonization of Mars, his level of ambition is astounding. His corresponding level of success is also worth noting, with several current and former ventures performing well overall.

When Inc. asked Musk to share some tips related to starting a business, one of the most relevant pieces of advice he shared with small business owners was to regularly seek critical feedback. While it’s important to understand your company’s strong suits, you also have to figure out where the operation can improve if you want future growth to be successful. This can be a complicated process, as it’s easy for someone to tell you what’s wrong or isn’t particularly good on a superficial level, but you’ll likely need more information to find out how to fix the situation.

Getting more out of the feedback you ask for can be a nuanced and complicated process. However, learning how to ask effective follow-up questions can quickly pay off. Taking a statement of dislike or disinterest, them probing for the reasoning or emotions behind the initial comment means you don’t just have a general sentiment to contend with, you have specific information to refer to in the future. Recording, storing and referring to feedback allows your business to become more efficient and appealing as it grows, not just larger.

Be an appropriate risk-taker

While you and your company shouldn’t take on every risky opportunity just because it exists, an overly cautious approach to developing and growing your business can also create problems. Both approaches distort the nature of risk and the need to properly assess it. For a great number of businesses, there are times when taking a calculated risk can definitely pay off.

That’s an attitude held by Richard Branson, the U.K. entrepreneur who has made successful businesses out of everything from music publishing to mobile devices and air travel. Writing for LinkedIn Pulse, Branson said to make big deals when appropriate, but to also protect the downside. In other words, take a risk when you feel comfortable, but make sure the basic needs of the business can still be met if the idea doesn’t work out as planned.

Make communication with staff meaningful

David Marcus, former president at PayPal and current vice president of messaging products at Facebook, said effective discussions with staff are vital to improvement. In an article for LinkedIn Pulse, he said he learned one of the toughest human traits to overcome in business is routine related to learned behaviors. In practical terms, you need to present a concrete benefit to someone – be it your staff, customer or business partners – before you can expect them to change significantly.

This advice can go a long way for small business owners of all types. Consider it as you continue to grow and develop your enterprise.