Entrepreneurship is a great leveler, explained Richard Branson recently.
The wonderful thing is that money is not the sole currency when it comes to starting a business; drive, determination, passion and hard work are all free and more valuable than a pot of cash.
[source: Virgin] As the Virgin Founder rightly pointed out, there are so many factors to take into account when getting a business off the ground – simply having the funding in place will not guarantee success. However even in the digital age, where the rise of social media has given a voice to even the youngest of businesses, it can be a struggle for small companies to compete against larger rivals.
This, according to Branson, is where employees can really come into their own. Its all about creating a culture of opportunity wrote Branson in a recent entrepreneur.com blog. The first goal of any new business is simply to survive – you need to prove that your business model works. One of the best ways to do this is by hiring excellent people who believe in your company and share your goals, and then by helping them to learn and improve their skills.
Your employees’ desire to learn gives you and other entrepreneurs a competitive advantage over larger companies. Small firms are usually new, so they attract people who are eager to try fresh approaches and have great ideas about how to do things differently, rather than employees who are working toward attaining a specific post or title.
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In the UK, there are nearly five million small businesses, with almost 96% employing less than ten people. Working for such a company may well mean that an individual has to diversify their skill set, taking on a number of roles and broadening their influence over a business direction. While Branson may see this as a positive, there are some aspects of this setup, which companies must guard against.
“First impressions count. The reality facing all business owners today is that customers expect a level of professionalism and a lack of it will affect your company’s credibility. The size of the business is immaterial, explained James Passingham of Foehn a small company, which works to help others, get noticed by large organizations.
“People judge the capabilities of a business on factors which are, in many ways, irrelevant. If one individual answers the phone, does the work and sends out the invoices, potential customers will notice that.” There are, however, ways to guard against this perceived weakness. With companies often registering PO Boxes or 020 numbers to add a veneer of professionalism to small or rural operations.