Four Lessons That Corporate Executives Can Learn from Entrepreneurs

Corporations are typically structured and policy-bound, while small startups are still in the process of creating their structure. Entrepreneurs can afford to have a little more freedom than a manager in a well-established firm. While executives for big companies might have more experience than startup founders in certain areas (such as managing large teams), there are a few important lessons that entrepreneurs can teach their corporate counterparts.

I’ve got some news: startups and large corporations behave in very different ways. Shocking, I know! When faced with a challenge, the most practical and effective course of action for a startup is usually dramatically different from what a large corporation would do. In fact, these practices often contradict each other outright.The reasoning for this is pretty simple. Corporations are typically structured and policy-bound, while small startups are still in the process of creating their structure. Entrepreneurs can afford to have a little more freedom than a manager in a well-established firm. While executives for big companies might have more experience than startup founders in certain areas (such as managing large teams), there are a few important lessons that entrepreneurs can teach their corporate counterparts:

1. Spending money is not the only way to make money.

Not many entrepreneurs are fortunate enough to start with a lot of money. While you might hear stories of startups raising millions of dollars, the truth is that most companies do not start that way. You’ve probably heard the adage: “you have to spend money to make money.” While that is true in many cases, executives would be smart to realize that spending money is not the only way to make money. Just look at all the startups who have started with little to no money at all. They might not have money to invest in R&D or a new marketing campaign when they really need a revenue boost, but to many startups, that proves to be a blessing in disguise. A lack of money forces startups to find creative ways to adapt to a changing market. Mark Zuckerberg famously said that Facebook’s strategy in its early days was to “move fast and break things”: they didn’t have a lot of money, nor did they know what would work and what wouldn’t, but it was their willingness to change that led to their growth. If startups can be agile and succeed without spending a lot of money, executives can have confidence that their companies can adapt as well without worrying about their budget.

2. Get to know every customer.

When Airbnb was a startup, its founders literally visited and stayed in their users’ homes. While they originally visited with the intent of taking pictures of the homes for the Airbnb website, they found that these visits were the perfect opportunity to find out what their customers needed and how they felt about the company.If you are an executive at a large corporation, this seems impossible. And it is. You won’t be able to meet every person who uses your products or services, but you can do the next best thing, which is to know as many as you can as well as you can.Pursue every opportunity to interact with customers. When you do, listen well. Take their words into consideration when making decisions in the future. Try to have those words in mind when you’re making strategic decisions for your company. Given, every person’s needs will be different, but if you can make decisions knowing that it will make your customers happy (even if it’s not every single one of them), you’ll make better decisions.

3. Get your name out there.

Startups face one big obstacle: they’re small. Nobody knows who they are, and until that changes, they won’t grow. However, they’re well aware of this, and that’s why their marketing strategies are full of clever ways to get people acquainted with their name and their business.Big companies might have the luxury of name and brand recognition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need marketing, nor should they let their marketing grow stale. Corporate marketing should be dynamic, timely, and most of all, experimental. With the resources big companies have at their disposal, they should be ahead of the curve on marketing trends.

4. Tackle problems immediately.

There’s always red tape in a large company, and bureaucracy makes problem-solving particularly difficult. Entrepreneurs don’t have red tape; if a problem arises, they put out the fire immediately. Executives would be smart to adopt this attitude. With all the name recognition their company has, they have so much more to lose if a product is defective or dissatisfactory. Word to the wise: when a problem comes up, cut through all the red tape and solve it.If they are properly applied, these lessons can prove extremely beneficial to large corporations. Taking a page or two out of an entrepreneur’s book will help executives to provide better service, create better products, and lead their large organizations to success.

Michael Seaman

Michael is the co-founder and CEO of Swipesum. A veteran of the payments industry, Michael and his brother Stephen have led Swipesum since its inception in 2016. In his free time, Michael likes to play with his two daughters and skateboard.

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