‘Agile’ has fast become one of the most commonly used buzzwords in business.
Where success once relied on proven rigid practices, we’re now encouraged to pivot, interact and iterate our way through the day to be responsive to changing landscapes.
It’s a cultural shift that stands in line with our new connected economy, and it’s put small businesses firmly front and centre. The structure and the mindset of small businesses combine to mean they’re perfectly positioned to capitalise on unpredictable opportunities.
Whether they’re using remote software, flexible employee structures, or creative marketing techniques, small lean businesses are constantly looking at ways to shift and improve their output to achieve the most effective results.
Small businesses don’t have the multiple layers of stakeholders, boards and approval processes that can typically slow the bigger-business response to time-sensitive situations. In that alone, small businesses have a competitive edge that many owners have started to maximise.
Here, three small-business owners talk about how they bend and shift to changing circumstances, and what it’s doing for business.
Christy Hynd – Little Maggie Moo
Co-founder of children’s brand Little Maggie Moo Christy Hynd founded her business from home, but as 2015 drew to an end, new products were selling out and wholesale enquiries were rolling in. In order to respond to the shift, Hynd started researching ethical and global manufacturing processes and in the process, connected with other like-minded business owners.
“You could say, ‘Where do you start even puttingtogether a booklet that you would pass out to shops? What questions do you ask of your manufacturer?’” she says.
“You could let all these questions overwhelm you … or you can justask.We find it so helpful to speak to other shops about their experiences and expectations whenever we’re responding to new changes.”
Hynd’s advice to other business owners is to “start making contacts early”.
“Contact other stores that have products that complement yours, and build a community you can turn to,” she says.
Jordana Blackman – Chicks Who Ride Bikes
As the founder of established cycling group and new e-commerce site Chicks Who Ride Bikes, Jordana Blackman learned the trick to remaining agile is to continuously reach outside of your own business.
“It’s hard, there’s no way about it,” she says.
“But I deal with difficult things better when I come together with others to acknowledge that they’re difficult. As soon as other business owners say, ‘It’s hard, right?’, you say, ‘Yeah! Let’s keep going.’
“I also put aside two hours a week to listen to a podcast, watch a video or read marketing blogs – anything to expand my knowledge and fuel new ideas. That time is golden,” she adds.
Amy Hourigan – Amy Who Digital
For the founder of digital marketing business Amy Who Digital, the best way to respond to change is to trust your instincts, and know your data.
“I’m on track for doubling my income this year, so I had to ask myself how to react,” she explains.
“Sometimes you have to say to yourself, ‘I can spend another year working within the business or I can trust my instincts and take a bigger leap on the business’.
“I have dashboarding software linked to my KPIs, so I can look at my business at a glance,” she adds.
“I’d recommend that for anyone. Setting up those analytics has been really important for me – it gives you that emotion-free picture of the aspects of your business that are working hard for you.”
Trent Innes is managing director of Xero.