Many members know that our case studies at the Harvard Business School have been instrumental in shaping Referral Key into the powerful tool that it is. Located in Boston, there are many points of connection between us and the institution.The HBS has strong insight into growing your small business and we often check in on them when we can. We came across a great article today on the Harvard Business blog entitled, “ Big Company Lessons for Small Businesses“. In this article, CEO of Cue Ball investment firm, Anthony Tjan, interviews Dick Harrington. What’s particularly interesting is that Mr. Harrington has made the transition form CEO and President of the world’s largest media company, Thomson and Reuters, to working with early stage and small businesses.
Rather than regurgitate an already great post, I thought we could frame some of the points in the context of relationship based business growth, referral marketing.
Mr Tjan: “After spending about a decade running a Fortune 500 - the world’s largest information media company - what motivates you to now work with early stage and small businesses?”
Mr. Harrington: “I get excited about having the opportunity to mentor them and hopefully share some lessons.”
Referral Key: No matter what stage of growth you are in, never forget to leverage your most valuable asset. Sharing expertise with other small business owners is a great way to lay the ground work for a strong relationship. It’s rewarding, cost effective, and could make a huge difference to your associate. Your expertise is your most valuable asset so don’t hesitate to barter a little knowledge.
Mr Tjan: “Give some examples of how you are applying big company lessons to the small firms you are investing in today.”
Mr. Harrington: “We all must understand our customers and the markets we serve, put the right people in the right places, and be sure the
organization is aligned to deliver on our goals and objectives.”
Referral Key: Who are your people? Are they in the right places? Are the people that help you grow your business merely the small team inside your office or do your trusted colleagues and clients beyond your walls actively advocate for you? Be sure to define your objectives. If your goal is to make 2009 a year of growth, put it down on paper. Fill in the blanks by asking, “What am I going to do to make my goal a reality?”, “What am I going to do different this year to create the difference in results” , and “How can my network help me get there?… How will I help them?”
Mr Tjan: What strengths shold entrepreneurs focus on?
Mr. Harrington: “They know their business and customers better than anyone else, and this knowledge can be hugely leveraged with the right operational practices. I am a huge believer that customer-driven strategies win over the long run. ”
Referral Key: You know your clients better than anyone. You know what they like. You also know that with the right motivators, they’ll become your biggest proponents; far more valuable than any magazine spot or newspaper plug. Good service and the right incentive can be all it takes to generate all the qualified sales leads you can handle. Try running a referral offer, focusing on what your clients really want. If your clients are a fan of the arts, send them to a show for driving new business your way.
Mr Tjan: What is the most significant challenge facing small businesses?
Mr. Harrington: It’s important for entrepreneurs to realize that one person can’t control everything, that they can’t be VP of marketing, sales, operations, etc. That kind of mindset just won’t work in the long run.”
Referral Key: Mr. Harrington is referring to hiring within your own company however, the same laws of codependency can certainly be applied within a network of small business owners. Again, this is why you’ll want to occasionally share your expertise with your network. Becoming a valued contributor of knowledge can make you an invaluable part of others businesses. This ensures the success of their business is contingent on the success of yours. Surrounding yourself with other motivated professionals can create an incredible upward thrust for everyone.