Is a very small business different to big business?

There are a lot of people out there who pass themselves off as business experts who want to tell home-based businesses or very small micro business owners that they are somehow different to bigger small and medium-sized businesses, or even big business.

Don’t believe them. The fundamentals of business hold no matter what your size. And just as small business can learn from big business, bigger organisations are now learning from smaller, more flexible and more customer-focused players.

Do you have any examples?

The simple and best advice is to go into business like a sponge, determined to soak up as much business information as possible to give you an edge over your rivals.

Here’s a story of someone who is very small for most of the year, but come a big day in September a home-based business grows into a very big operation.

Before the roar of the crowd on the first bounce of the ball on AFL Grand Final day at the MCG and before the Formula One cars roll onto the Albert Park circuit, the sporting crowds of Australia have enjoyed the work of a business that defines the new age of business.

This business is Kerrie Hayes Productions, a leading company in the field of entertainment production. Hayes runs and owns a classic micro-business with two full-time staff in the office and an accountant. Despite her smallness, her operation oversees some of the really big shows on the Australian sporting calendar, including Crickets Australian, the Australian Rugby Union and Cricket Australia.

Do you have any proof?

Rake a look at this A-list of clients and events.

One of Hayes’ proudest moments was to create the entertainment for the official opening of Stadium Australia in 1999 and there was the rugby union contest at the same ground, which was played in front of a record-breaking crowd of 107,042.

However, Hayes’ strongest testimonials regarding the seriousness of her business credentials are her two longest running contracts.
First there is the Australian Football League Grand Final, which she has run since 1986, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, which she has held since 1987.

So how has Hayes established herself as the big show girl of Australian sport?

Starting her life as a dancer on stage and television with the likes of Australia’s most well-known dancer and choreographer, David Atkins, by the 1980s Hayes was gradually moving into the choreographer and director roles.

But her big break came from friend, comedian Paul Hogan, who introduced her to someone well-placed at ad firm George Patterson Y&R and she was given the gig to put on the show for the 1986 Rugby League grand final.

From there she became the promoter and producer of Rock Eisteddfod Australia, USA & Fiji from 1988 to 1995.

How can a very small business pull off big contracts?

The answer explains the massive growth of micro and home-based businesses – outsourcing.

“On a big event I could have up to 100 people working with me,” Hayes says. “It’s all in the planning and the co-ordination of the brilliant people I work with, some of who have been with me for 19 years. By grand final day I only walk the grounds with a walkie talkie.”

Asked to explain how she has held the footy and car racing contracts for so long, she believes it gets down to getting it right each time.

“I never get paid until the job is done,” she explains. “And you can’t relax until drinks with VIPs upstairs at the end of the event.”
Hayes says her business is tough: with millions of eyes watching at the event and on television, you don’t get second chances if anything goes wrong.

“The weather is the worst factor to deal with. We always have three back-up sound systems so we never have to live through things like the Billy Idol incident at the 2002 Rugby League Grand Final when a power problem ruined the act.”

What things can you do to make a difference?

  • Building up a strong support team
  • Creating a formidable network for referrals
  • Running her business on systems
  • Never letting ego get in the way of good customer service
  • Planning to make sure everything happens right the first time
  • Being small and thinking big means you develop systems that ensure you can deliver, and this has to be provable to clients
  • Many big operations won’t deal with smaller players because they fear that they are too dependent on one key performer. You need to show big customers that you have a plan B, which swings into operation if ever things go wrong
  • It’s all about being professional and focused. The small operator, like the big business, needs to continually assess how they are doing – can it be done better; what needs to be done; what is best practice; what do my customers want?
  • The Japanese economic miracle was based on ‘Kaizen’ or ‘continuous improvement’ and that’s worth taking on board for anyone in business.