4 Things Older Companies Can Learn From Startups

Though your business might have left the startup stage long ago, it's not a bad idea to get back to running your company the way you did back then.

learn more about Robert Finlay

By Robert Finlay

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There are a million ways to operate a business, but which way is most likely to lead to success? Startups tend to operate differently from long-established companies. Startup culture is flashy and fun, but sometimes older companies see these differences as immature.

While undoubtedly companies who've been successful for years know a thing or two about successful operation strategies, it's important to keep an open mind about new strategies that young companies come up with. If older companies are unable to incorporate some of the successful strategies of young businesses, they'll soon start struggling to keep up.

Related: It's Time for Startup Culture to Talk About Mental Health

1. Passion drives employee engagement

One of the defining characteristics of startup culture is the energy in the workplace and among the employees. When you talk to the employees at a startup, they tend to believe in the mission of their company, and they want to help it succeed. Because of this shared passion for the goals of the organization, these employees tend to have the passion and drive that are necessary for creating a sustainable sense of engagement.

A Gallup case study with New Century Financial Mortgage showed that engagement is more important than any other workplace perk in driving results. Over a period of six months, account executives at the company who were reportedly disengaged produced 28 percent less than their colleagues who reported feeling engaged at work. New Century then took steps to improve employee engagement at certain branches. The branches who improved engagement grew at a rate six times faster than branches whose engagement stayed the same.

Engagement is one of the things that startups have done a really good job at creating. Long-established companies can see major success if they can replicate the type of engagement that is commonly seen among employees at startups.

Related: Employee Engagement Has a Direct Link to Successful Business Outcomes

2. The ability to adapt to change is a must

The business world is constantly changing, and startups know how to change with it. They have to be scrappy to keep up with competitors who are more established and have more resources.

Because of this, successful startups are good at pivoting as necessary and adjusting course when the situation calls for it. The most recent event that required worldwide businesses to adjust more rapidly than ever before was the Covid-19 pandemic. The companies who were able to successfully pivot to the changing needs of the world were able to keep revenues stable, and sometimes even increase revenue during that time.

AXA PPP Healthcare was one of the companies that adapted quickly when the pandemic swept the world, and their business thrived. As a major insurance provider, the company had to provide value to customers while hospitals were not available. They did this by offering more digital services. This involved a massive communication initiative to inform customers how to use new and altered products and services.

Because AXA PPP Healthcare was able to adapt with the speed and efficiency that you see in startup companies, it thrived throughout the uncertainty of Covid-19. This type of adaptability is essential for successful companies to establish.

3. Innovation allows you to keep up with the times

There's a reason so many of the world's most successful companies are young tech companies. Companies like Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb and Uber are all companies that saw a changing need and built an innovative solution.

Old companies have to be able to also recognize changing opportunities. They must be creative in providing solutions to customers if they don't want younger, more creative companies to pop up and take their place.

One of the industries that has recently seen innovation is commercial real estate. While this industry has been around for centuries, it's only in recent decades that innovators have brought tech into the field. Tech has helped reinvent real-estate investing, allowing people in the industry to remain competitive as the world progresses.

Related: Time to Reinvent: 5 Tips for Boosting Creativity and Innovation

4. Knowing your employees creates a better culture

Startups have a huge advantage because of their size. It's easy for top leadership to know everyone at the company when the company is smaller than 100 people. Even though it's more difficult for employees at larger companies to be well-connected to each other, it's important to cultivate this feeling of connection and communication.

Employees are more likely to feel fulfilled and engaged when they feel like they have a voice. Top leadership is also more likely to offer valuable direction to the rest of the company when they know what it's like to be on the front lines of the business.

Even if you have a large company, take steps to ensure employees are well-connected. Provide social opportunities and make sure that communication channels are open to everyone.

Chances are, if your company has been around for a while, you're doing something right as part of your operations. However, there's plenty to be learned from young startups and how they're able to so successfully break into the markets and take off. If you want to keep up with these new companies, it's important to add an element of freshness to your operations and stay open-minded.

Robert Finlay

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder at Thirty Capital & Lobby CRE

Robert Finlay helps operators and investors in the commercial real-estate industry generate market-beating returns. He has built multiple 9-figure real-estate tech products, including his primary focus, Lobby CRE.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

The Dark Side of Pay Transparency — And What to Do If You Find Out You're Being Underpaid
Thinking of a Career Change? Here Are 4 Steps You Can Take to Get There.
A Founder Who Bootstrapped Her Jewelry Business With Just $1,000 Now Sees 7-Figure Revenue Because She Knew Something About Her Customers Nobody Else Did
Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Law
Business News

Carnival Cruise Wants Passengers to Have Fun in the Sun — But Do This, and You'll Get Burned With a New $500 Fee

The cruise line's updated contract follows a spate of unruly guest behavior across the tourism industry.


6 Secret Tools for Flying First Class (Without Paying Full Price)

It's time to reimagine upgrading. Here's how to fly first class on every flight, business or personal.

Business News

'You Didn't Even Try': Aldi UK Ripped Online For Accidental NSFW Candy Shape

The marshmallow "Bunnies and Chicks" rolled out to stores just in time for the Easter holiday.

Business News

'Crying Northwestern Kid' Turned His Viral Fan Moment Into a Successful Harvard Admissions Essay. He Says the Experience Taught Him About Empathy.

Six years ago, Phillips was watching No. 8 Northwestern take on No. 1 Gonzaga during March Madness when he became a meme.