Many times while sifting through books and sitting through lectures in business school you are introduced to concepts that you ponder the practicality of. Are some of the theories too academic? Or do they only apply to large corporations such as Starbucks and General Electric (both of which you will read a lot about) and may not be applicable to smaller, startup-type businesses? These are questions I found myself asking through my first year back at school.
Now looking back on my recent four-month internship for a marketing firm in Toronto, Wickware Communications, I can see some of those concepts learned in class playing out in how a successful small business operates. Here are my Top 3 ideas that were introduced in my business education and which were driving success in the small business setting I experienced.
1. Carve out your niche then stick to it and own it
Much academic material states that companies that stick to a distinct niche will find more success in the marketplace than those with a less clear concept of who they are and what they represent. The same can be said for any successful product or brand, as each needs to have a clear identity and need to be aimed a specific target. This concept was exemplified by Wickware, which has carved out a niche as a creative partner of the financial sector. When asked if they ever felt a pull to other sectors or types of businesses the immediate answer I got was no, and that was exemplified to me throughout my four-month term. To be a successful small business, know what you are the expert at and own that niche.
2. Put power in the hands of your employees and encourage them to lead
With few employees in a small firm and contracts and projects always coming up, you have to delegate a sizable amount of responsibility and have trust in your employees and let them be experts in their area. Creating a firm where each employee is effectively a manager of their own territory, creates a great sense of cohesiveness and effectively keeps everyone motivated to drive business forward. Each employee at Wickware is a master of their trade and each takes responsibility for getting tasks done to help the greater good.
3. Position your firm to become a part of a community and get involved with clients and customers outside of sales
With the massive changes in the way people communicate constantly bombarding business, there is sometimes no better way to connect than good old fashioned networking. Getting your firm involved in organizations and associations that lead to engagement and interaction in a community can lead to relationships that may directly lead to business but may indirectly influence your firm within a year, or five or 10. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and if your can get your firm as visible as possible in anything industry related there is no telling what sort of business can be developed. Wickware is actively involved in the Professional Association of Investment Communications Resources (PAICR ) and has recently given a number of presentations on social media and messaging research done at the firm. They also actively reach out in quarterly updates that include video, print and digital content. I also learned that some of their best clients took more than five years to transition from acquaintance to client, and that no relationship is ever the same.
My internship gave me a wealth of experience in a short time and showed me that, while no small business is the same, coming into the business with a basis of knowledge from the classroom really helped me to hit the ground running, understand the business quickly and start contributing immediately.
Special to The Globe and Mail