How a startup mindset can benefit small businesses

Small businesses have a lot to gain by adopting a startup mindset.

By U2B Staff 

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Across websites, there is a lot that can be found on what businesses need to do in order to survive the on-going pandemic. From e-learning programmes in marketing and social media to training in e-commerce, businesses are staying on their toes to stay ahead. 

However, while these initiatives can be effective, some businesses could benefit greatly from reimagining their operations from both a strategy and business model standpoint. This typically requires a complete shift in mindset.

Whether you are starting a new business, trying to grow your side hustle, or take your small business to new heights, you could greatly benefit from adopting some of the characteristics of a startup mindset. 

Startups are born to scale. They’re energised by the excitement of breaking new ground, taking calculated risks, and achieving new milestones. The start-up culture is characterised by a suite of purposeful activities, backed by innovation, usually with the intention to change the way an entire market or industry operates. Startups do this by using newer business models, technologies, and processes. They move quickly and aim far beyond the status quo. 

When WhatsApp was acquired for more than US$19 billion, it only had 55 employees. Instagram, YouTube, Viber, Skype, and Tumblr had 13, 65, 50, 911, and 178 employees, respectively. Technology is an enabler, and the reason startups can scale so quickly with a repeatable business model and a tiny user to employee ratio, unlike small businesses.


Established organisations and small businesses have a lot to gain by adopting a startup mentality, which exudes entrepreneurship. 

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO, and founder of FlexJobs, told Forbes, “To me, an entrepreneurial spirit is a way of approaching situations where you feel empowered, motivated, and capable of taking things into your own hands. Companies that nurture an entrepreneurial spirit within their organisation encourage their employees to not only see problems, solutions, and opportunities but to come up with ideas to do something about them.” 

It has not been the easiest time for small business owners. If you are unsure of your company’s next step, these foundational characteristics of a startup mindset could help:

Utilise disruption

A startup mindset would view disruption as a good thing. Up-and-coming businesses initiate disruption by taking a new approach to an ongoing problem, thinking differently and challenging conventional wisdom in their industries. Most seasoned business owners prefer familiarity, so it can be tempting for them to avoid change. However, stagnancy does not help. 

If you want to try something new within operations, there’s no better time than now to make a change, like most industries. Restaurants are offering high-demand household items as add-ons to takeout. Boutique toy and clothing shops post daily photos on Instagram to focus on selling key items remotely. All types of businesses are starting to diagnose problems remotely to avoid physical contact, from insurance agents using FaceTime for damage assessments of accident claims to plumbing and HVAC companies using apps or video for remote estimates.

Move quickly

We live in an age where agility trumps perfection. Startups deal with this reality by quickly crafting, iterating and prototyping concepts and product offerings whenever needed. More often than not, startups use agile concepts, alongside ideas such as a minimum viable product – a technique in which a website or new product is developed after weighing feedback from the product’s first users.


Stay ahead

The biggest startup lesson every organisation should embrace is this: Get your new idea into the market before anyone else does, then quickly refine it with the help of user feedback. 

In today’s ever-changing, fast-paced world, it is not recommended to spend too much time perfecting new services or offerings. By doing so, small businesses might find themselves beaten to the punch. Or what they have to offer might no longer be relevant. Small businesses should always move fast to stay ahead of competitors.

Be imaginative

Within startups, success or failure begins with creating new ideas or developing innovative changes to previous ones. It often begins with curiosity. 

Now is a good time to ask yourself why you choose to operate your business in a certain way. If you were starting again today, would you do anything differently? While your initial reaction may be to leave things as they are, you could be missing an opportunity to serve your customers in a different and better way.

Learn from failure

Failure is a part and parcel of a start-up’s existence. In fact, failed brand campaigns, product launches and feature updates happen in every company’s lifecycle, regardless of its industry or size. What makes startups different is that they accept that failure is an inevitable outcome of experimentation and innovation. Most importantly, they see any outcome as a learning experience.