3 Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn from Corporate Giants

Here are three pages entrepreneurs should take out of corporate handbooks.

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Lesson 3: They foster innovation

How they do it:

Okay so this one may be debatable, but speaking from personal experience some large corporations do encourage employees to come up with innovative ideas (related to their jobs, of course). In my previous corporate life, one of the things we really encouraged employees to do was to try and put themselves out of business. That means — come up with clever ways to do those things you hate doing, so that you can concentrate on the things you actually like to do (passing work on to junior employees doesn’t count here.)

When technology budget wasn’t available to completely re-engineer a process, analysts were given free rein to leverage the tools that were already accessible to them to develop an improved process (think Microsoft Office suite). We even had an acronym for this—UDA (User Developed Application.) If you’ve ever worked in Corporate America, you know that large corporations have acronyms for everything, but I happen to think this one is useful as it actually makes sense.

How we can do it:

As small business owners, we should encourage our employees to come up with creative ways to do their jobs. Just because we’ve trained them to do a task a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is the best way to do it. Likely, we did it that way once and never had time to think of another way. If we communicate this to them, we may be surprised how creatively re-energized they can become about their jobs.

Some employees may have great ideas on how to improve their functions, but may be scared to share them for fear of losing their jobs. It’s important to reassure your employees that they won’t be out of a job if improve their functions; rather, they’ll be able to bear some new responsibility instead.


While corporations and small businesses are vastly different in terms of the way they operate, we can learn a thing or two from each other. After all, large corporations didn’t start off with thousands of employees and millions of dollars to make their operations efficient. They were once small businesses like us. If you could take some cues from those who’ve been there before, wouldn’t you?!

Connect with Jen on Twitter.

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Photo Credit: Ann Taylor

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