The small biz secret weapon: benefits of owning a small business vs a large business.

How to work your number one competitive edge. As a small business you have something big businesses don’t, and never will: agility. It's one of the biggest advantages of small businesses over larger businesses – and it's something the big boys wish they had. Here’s how to get the most out of your agility advantage.

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You’re no lumbering elephant. You’re a mountain goat. You react to changing terrain with dizzying quickness, weaving your way through the rocky landscape of business with a sure-footed ease the big guys envy. Your agility is your edge over the elephants of this world.

How can make the most of this advantage of small business? Here are four things you can—and should—do to fully exploit your agility.

1: Give customers exactly what they want.

Direct contact with customers is much more feasible for a small business. And it’s good for everyone. You can learn what they want, quickly adapt your services to appeal to them, and go above and beyond the call of duty to meet their needs and inspire lifelong loyalty.

This becomes ever more important as big businesses begin to move in on your territory. Even if you’re not directly fending off corporate competitors right now, you’ll be glad you put in the effort and face time early if someone bigger ever dares to encroach on your market share.

2: Keep everyone on the same page.

For any business to be successful, its people need to be able to work in lockstep toward a common goal. Fluid communication is key. The problem is as you get bigger, that gets harder to attain.

The beauty of having a small team is that instead of having to arrange a joint strategy meeting between marketing and sales, José just has to walk 10 feet across the floor and have a five-minute chat with Sarah. Now that’s agility—and it's one of the biggest ways that small businesses have an advantage over large businesses.

Your people work in close proximity (whether physically or virtually), they know what each other is doing, and they’re one team, not separate departments working in silos. That’s invaluable (and something that corporations pour millions into trying to pull off), so make the most of it.

3: Pick up new technology lickety-split.

New tech means new opportunities. But, for a corporate giant, it also means weeks—if not months—of planning, training and strategizing on how best to upgrade from the old tools they’re already using.

Luckily, you’ve got a blank slate. For you, it’s as simple as picking what you want, choosing how you want to use it, and putting your feet up while the big boys have yet another implementation meeting. Take the cloud, for example. When it first hit the scene, lots of big companies saw its potential, but had to spend months or even years making a case for using it in their business.

Meanwhile, legions of small businesses welcomed it with open arms, and used it as an easy and affordable way to access tools that were previously reserved for their enterprise-scale competitors.

4: Take every opportunity to innovate.

A small business is the perfect place to innovate.

You’re flexible, so you and your people are free to try out your boldest new ideas. You’re new, so you’re willing to take a risk or two to make a name for yourself while you’re learning how to grow your business. And most important, if you really break the mold, all of the rewards go to you and your team instead of fueling a corporate machine.

All of those things together make you an idea factory. You don’t have to try and force innovation like the big guys do, because you’ve got the kind of environment where it’s encouraged and happens naturally.

From Instagram to Apple, there is no shortage of successful small businesses that went big on the back of a single innovative idea. Which of yours is going to kick start your big story?

Make the most of your agility.

As your business succeeds and gets bigger, it will naturally begin to lose its agility and elasticity in a tradeoff for new competitive advantages. That’s just the way it goes. So enjoy being nimble and flexible. Really squeeze all you can out of it, for as long as you can, while you’re still small enough to do it.

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