Small Businesses and Startups Have More in Common Than You Think

At the heart of both of these business models are six core qualities entrepreneurs need to succeed

learn more about Jason Richelson

By Jason Richelson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

On the surface, launching a startup and running a small business is like comparing apples to oranges. Startups are perceived as sexy and up and-coming while small businesses conjure images of local mom-and-pop shops, the quintessential Main Street America.

However, at the heart of each of these business models are six core qualities entrepreneurs need to succeed and, believe it or not, they have little to do with hard-hitting technology and everything to do with communication and self-improvement.

Whether you're selling software or pouring coffee, the hardest thing about managing a business is interacting with those around you. To ensure employee satisfaction and provide customers with the best possible experiences, here are essential qualities small-business owners and startups alike should embrace.

Related: What It Takes to Be a Small-Business Owner

1. Tech-savviness

Even if you aren't running a software startup, business owners must understand how technology works to run smarter businesses and compete with other leaders in the space.

By engaging with software, small-business owners will become fluent in effective management strategy and find seamless ways to insert technology in everyday operations. For instance, a deep understanding of software can also help business owners stay on top of consumer trends by evaluating available data and, in turn, provide tailored services for customers.

2. Excitement

Motivation is an essential part of any business' success. To keep employees excited about coming to work each day, business owners must motivate them to grow within their roles. Even if you only have one location, create pathways for employees to move up within your store. Workers want to feel as though they have a career path; growth is what enables that. To engage staff about progression, be excited yourself and remind them of the key reasons they jumped onboard in the first place and the opportunity that's still available.

3. Experimentation

Just because the term pivot is traditionally tied to startups, doesn't mean small businesses aren't doing so, too. Like startups, small businesses should embrace experimentation and test different strategies to find what works best for their business and customers. By testing different variables -- vendors, products and software, to name a few -- business owners can see which stimuli best affects the outcome of their operations and provide customers with the most exemplary experiences.

Related: What Young People Must Know About Entrepreneurship

4. Equity

To engage longstanding employees and encourage a vested interest in the company, consider offering staff equity after working a set amount of time.

Small-business owners can also adopt this practice through profit sharing based on how many hours one works, though this can become difficult as businesses grow.

5. Confidence

Across the board, tech startups are perceived as being data driven. However, just because business owners have access to a plethora of data doesn't mean they should always remain immersed in it. Despite popular belief, businesses cannot be 100 percent data driven. It's inefficient to rely solely on hard numbers, so founders must learn how to trust their gut in different situations. At the end of the day, dwell on those numbers that are most important and let them inform your decisions -- you'll find your instinct is consistent with those most crucial points.

Also, a startup requires increased collaboration, so founders must learn to listen to gut reactions and not shy away from making decisions. The same can be said for small businesses -- employees want to know which direction they should go. Give them the right goals and get creative in finding ways to achieve them.

6. Transparency

Of all the qualities a business should maintain, transparency sits right on top. Employees need to know where a business is heading and customers value a glance into internal operations -- whether it's a glimpse at ingredients or ensuring a company endorses ethical suppliers. Customers also value "trying before they buy," so invite them to "tasting rooms" and offer free trials to grant them first-hand experience with a product. By putting offerings on display, business owners can rightfully earn customers' business.

While startups and small businesses have their fair share of differences, success is success. Grooming these qualities will not only build stronger managers but smarter businesses that cater to the needs of customers, whether in Silicon Valley or just down the street.

Related: 7 Dark Truths About Entrepreneurship

Jason Richelson

Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of ShopKeep

Jason Richelson is the founder and chief strategy officer of ShopKeep, a point-of-sale platform for the iPad. 

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