Turning big business innovations into small business initiatives

Kate Jones

In theory, it should make sense for small businesses to borrow big business innovations, but how can you assess whether big business ideas are transferable?

Famous innovators such as Google have set benchmarks for startups hoping to emulate similar success. But what works for the likes of Google doesn’t also translate well to small business.

Take Google’s 20 per cent time rule, which let employees use 20 per cent of their time to work on projects that most benefit Google. But the reality of the rule was questioned by former Google executive, now Yahoo chief executive, Marissa Mayer who said it was really “120 per cent time”.

Sydney-based start-up Car Next Door models its organisational system on Google’s Objectives and Key Results. The strategy sets and reviews key performance indicators every quarter, which communications manager Kate Trumbull says helps keep staff on track and aiming high.

We all help to set and prioritise the specific targets the business is working towards each quarter.

“We've found it a really powerful way to keep everyone in the team focused and motivated to do things that really contribute to the business's success,” she says.

“We all help to set and prioritise the specific targets the business is working towards each quarter, and set our own KPIs to support these overall goals.

“It's a simple and powerful technique for any small business to use.”

Sales and business development consultant John Goegan is regularly asked about what strategies can be transferred from big to small businesses and says the key is to think outside the square.

“Small business owners or their staff are sometimes small thinkers or spend their time and resources maintaining a stagnant environment or do not know how to stimulate the environment they want,” he says.

“It is not until you help them see things in a different light that some of the processes that are executed within large businesses can be scaled down to suit their business.”

DiffuzeHR chief executive Mikki Silverman says small businesses need to think like big businesses when it comes to staff and structure.

“Without having a similarly streamlined and comprehensive system in place, small businesses put themselves at risk of workers compensation claims, payroll, and OH&S issues that can cause massive legal problems if exacerbated,” she says.

“Being able to gauge underperforming staff, reduce administrative disorder and have all the policies and HR strategies in place just like a big business can greatly benefit SMEs.”

Kate Jones

Kate Jones writes for the business and money sections of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. She also writes for The New Daily, TAC, RMIT and is a news writing tutor at Monash University.