The romantic way to think about an entrepreneur and a small business owner is as someone who has no real rules they need to follow. As opposed to the worker chained to a corporate job, many small business owners have indeed chosen their path specifically because they wanted to control their own destiny and escape the world of having a boss.
The truth is, there are many way to have your own small business and control your own destiny without necessarily having a complete autonomy over everything you do. Franchising, for example, is a well known mixture of having your own business while still maintaining some connection to a larger brand. Real estate agent, gas station owners, insurance agents, automotive dealers, accountants – these are all professions where small business owners might still report into some sort of a corporate structure and benefit from their association with a national brand for marketing and credibility.
In these worlds, small business owners recognize that they walk a line between complete independence and adhering to some sort of corporate structure. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing – as long as you maintain your ability to stay independent while using the benefit of the corporate structure while avoiding the potential down sides. Here are a few ideas on how to do it:
- Take the credit. You and your fellow business owners understand the difference between the business you are running and your corporate team, but the average customer probably doesn’t think about it much. As far as they know, the print ad they saw in Vogue was your ad. The TV spot was done with your business in mind. Most won’t think you paid for it, of course, but don’t shy away from that investment – be open to taking some credit for it.
- Know when to zag. There is no reason when you are running a small business that you should feel accountable to answer for the sins of your father or your brother. When there is a master brand crisis, or a situation with another small business owner in another region – there will always be a way to deal with it that relates specifically to your market and your business. You don’t need to solve the issue for the overall brand … there is hopefully a team already working on that. You need to manage the risk to your business in whatever way you can.
- Look to the superstars outside your brand. Outside of your brand, there are other small business owners who are making masterful use of their corporate brands while standing out in their regions. Those can be great examples of what you may want to try in your industry and in your brand.