If I were to skim the ag news headlines from the past two years, much of the text would center on mergers, acquisitions and competition. There’s no question that the industry is maturing; big companies are getting bigger. Yet, in this fiercely competitive space, independent companies are thriving.
While we might not have the capital advantage of the multinationals, as small businesses we are more nimble. The moment we say we want to be like “X,” we lose the benefit of being small. I admit it’s a constant temptation because you look across the street and see the resources they can pour into a project. But it’s important for us to refrain from that temptation, and instead focus on our own unique roadmap to success. Below are seven “To-Do’s” that we find help us better compete.
Stay true to yourself and your values. Don’t let yourself become entitled to the business you receive. It’s critical that we keep the perspective of needing to work hard and to earn every bit of business we can. It’s also important to define company values and to ingrain them into your entire culture. Do not compromise on values; it’s what keeps customers coming back.
Create partnerships. As a small business, you can’t be an expert at everything. You need align yourself with partners on both sides of the supply chain who complement your core offering of products and services.
Be willing to kill a project. Sometimes when you’re invested in something, it’s hard to give it a critical eye. The optimist takes over. I caution you must be honest with yourself and kill a project if it’s not working. Don’t do a disservice to the company and continue to sink resources into a failing project, or a product that won’t sell.
Provide excellent service and support. This is the most important tip. Be available for customers to contact you, and then provide excellent service and support. This is what earns you repeat customers.
Don’t process yourself to death. When partnering and/or competing with larger companies, it’s easy to see the benefit of having processes, and sometimes they might request that you put processes in place that do not match your size and/or resources. While these can be helpful, they can also overextend you and paralyze the business.
Embrace technology. Identify technologies that can benefit your processes, products and services. Don’t be afraid to spend money on technology, but do your homework. This is an area that can deliver big advantages.
Value employees. If we take care of our employees, they will take care of the business. Too often, we think we value employees, but we must go a step further and make sure they feel valued. This is more than compensation and benefits; this means we must stay engaged with employees and stand behind them.
Remember: Don’t get stuck in the mindset of “bigger is better.” Small businesses are the backbone of America, and in general, people like doing business with small businesses.