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Nick Bell
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Managing Director of WME.
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5 Lessons Businesses Can Learn from Startups

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The tech world is abuzz with startup fever. Although many people are sceptical about startups’ success, believing their growth is short-lived, I tend to think the opposite.

I choose to invest in Australia’s tech startups because I value their approach to business. I see great potential for scaling, growth and returns on my investment. I’m impressed by their innovation, ideas and energy and want to see more. In short, startups naturally have something brilliant that sets them apart from larger companies.

In fact, I think that it’s a shame when big businesses lose the glow and ambition they had at the start. With a bit of a shakeup, though, even the largest businesses can get back to that high-intensity growth stage and experience some of the amazing innovations that defines startups. Here’s how.

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Be agile and don’t stop innovating

If startups are known for one thing, it’s their intense drive to innovate. In their initial stages, their small, nimble teams are able to do just that, without the burden of bureaucracy holding them back.

My biggest tip to large businesses is to never be afraid to experiment. Even if you’ve completed a process in the same way for years, try something else – and don’t be afraid of failure, either. It happens. Conservativism can be dangerous to growth and it can hold you back from discovering the next big thing – try and think outside the box.

Get on top of your culture

When a company is young, enthusiastic and eager, they’re more likely to have some fun.

Make your large business even better by hiring people who are inspired by your vision and want to see it work. To do this, you need to make a considered effort to improve your workplace culture. Make them happy to come to work each day – recognise their achievements and give valuable incentives.

At WME, we’re proud of our employees and want each and every person to feel at home. Every Friday, we invite everyone in the company to recognise the people who made their work week easier, happier or more inspiring. We invite everyone to celebrate along with their workmates’ achievements.

Although this is a small step, when combined with our other efforts it really does contribute to our employees’ motivation and creativity, making it more likely they’ll stay around for longer.

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Have a native understanding of your customers’ needs

These days, customer experience is everything and, if your customers don’t like your brand, they can easily shift their attention (and dollar) somewhere else.

Startups are brilliant at immersing themselves in the customer experience, putting their finger on intentions and building a rich picture of their customers’ identities. They don’t just look at data or interpret analytics – the founders will go out into the field and actually talk with the people they’re trying to sell to. Try and do the same and see how your sales pitch and marketing become much more fluent.

Solve your customers’ problems

It’s likely your business started by trying to solve people’s problems. Maybe you opened your accountancy firm because people were flustered and overwhelmed at tax time. Perhaps your organic skincare brand sells to people who want to treat their skin better. Either way, you were creating products to fill a gap in the market.

Over time, many big businesses forget why they started and begin to focus on something other than the product. Of course, they’re still selling the same old thing but their attentions have shifted to internal processes and structures. In other words, they’ve stopped thinking about what matters most – their customers.

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Establish actionable goals

Set a clear vision and your employees will follow. Simply by establishing shared goals, you’ll have something to strive for as a company and will be able to reap the rewards sooner.

Beyond this, setting measurable goals keeps you accountable. With goals and outcomes in place, you’re able to accurately measure what innovations worked – and which ones didn’t – to get a clear picture of the redundancies within your company. If you see there are areas that are underperforming, according to the strict criteria you set yourself, don’t be afraid to cut them out.

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By Nick Bell


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