Somewhere deep in the recesses of their ego, all small business owners dream of being the ‘next big thing.’ They dream of knocking Apple off of their throne or outperforming Google. The interesting aspect of those dreams is the fundamental question. Why not?

All major corporations got their start in the same way. At one point they were the gleam in an entrepreneur’s eye. Through hard work, intelligent planning and a large dose of good luck, those small business entities became the huge corporations they are today. Who is to say that the company that will replace Netflix, Samsung or Tesla isn’t already in existence, just waiting for their chance at the big leagues?

All of these companies share certain attributes or mindsets that helped them dominate their market. Although the success stories might be different, each of them shares certain characteristics. All of them have lessons to teach small business owners on how to be successful.

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Lesson One: Your strength lies in your employees

No matter how much pride you take in being able to run your small business by yourself, creating the environment to expand and grow requires a team of dedicated people who can and will make decisions about the company. That means you need to find individuals who are trustworthy and loyal, who are willing to put the needs of the company over their own and give them the power to do so.

Delegating authority and empowering employees can be very difficult for a business owner who is used to doing everything himself. Although he or she will retain final responsibility, finding and hiring capable, trustworthy people to help build and run the business is never easy.

Lesson Two: Plan your work and work your plan

No matter what size of business you are contemplating, having a business plan is critical for success. When the business is just one or two people keeping track of goals and benchmarks is easy, but you should get in the habit of documenting the plan as soon as possible. It is a lot simpler to update your business plan to take into account growth than it is to come up with one from scratch once the business is already growing.

Having clearly documented goals also makes it easier for your employees to understand where the company is going. It identifies areas of importance and areas that need improvement. Documenting both your successes and failures makes building on them much easier and clearer. Writing down why you do something, in addition to how, also helps focus your business on its goals.

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Lesson Three: No man is an island

Whether you are trying to accomplish something individually or as a company you cannot do everything by yourself. Cultivate professional help in areas where you will need it in the future. Hiring a good accountant – or accounting firm – to manage your books and keeping a good attorney on retainer to create contracts and legal documents will pay off over the long run.

When it comes time to look for partners or investors, these contacts can also provide suggestions and candidates that don’t move in your circles. Cultivating a good relationship with investment bankers can also be of great assistance when it is time to expand your company.

Lesson Four: Practice the Golden Rule

Everyone should know the advantages of doing unto others as you would have them do to you, but it bears repeating. If you treat customers, employees, and competitors as you want to be treated, it will be much easier to get things done, hold on to employees and become a well-known part of your industry. Ruthlessness and spite may have their place in daydreams but they are out-of-place in the modern workforce.

The creation of a happy and productive workplace begins with you. Managers, department heads and all other people associated with your business will take their cues from your attitude and behavior. If you want to be treated with respect, you have to give it to those who deserve it. Then you have to earn it for yourself.

Tying it all together

This list is not complete, of course. It would take multiple books to lay down every lesson that big business can teach, but following these four lessons will make sure that your company is on the right track to exploit the next big breakthrough. You will have a strong and flexible infrastructure, you will have a written plan to follow, outside help to get you over the next hill and the good will of both your own staff and others to fight off problems and take advantage of opportunities.

No matter how big a company is, at one point they were just an idea in someone’s mind. Hard work, planning and a willingness to grow is the difference between your company becoming one of the giants of industry or remaining a small company that has a lot of potential. It’s up to you to take that potential and make something of it.

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