Why Every CEO Should Think Like A Small Business Owner

July 19, 2016, 11:00 PM UTC
Smiling small business owner sitting in office
Smiling small business owner sitting at workstation in office in discussion with coworker
Thomas Barwick — Getty Images

The Fortune 500 Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you deal with change at a large corporation? is written by Tim Felks, head of property claims at Farmers Insurance.

Organizational change is never easy—especially for larger companies—but it’s also never been more necessary. We live in an age of disruption, where unforeseen technological advances can transform entire industries. Who could have predicted digital sharing companies, wearable technology or self-driving cars? Yet, it’s not impossible for leaders to successfully steer their organizations through change. Businesses that adapt to change often go on to thrive. To do this, however, these four steps are key:

Think like a small business. Smaller organizations are often better able to cope with change simply because they’re capable of being nimble. However, larger organizations can mimic that mindset. For example, don’t be quick to say “no” to new ideas. And make sure your leadership and employees remain open to change; to rethinking your processes on a regular basis; to creating new structures when necessary. While the varied business units and siloed departments of a large organization can sometimes slow down change, they should never stop it altogether.

Don’t be afraid to fail (and learn). At Farmers, we’ve learned from experience that a “test and learn” culture can help manage an ever growing and rapidly changing marketplace. From new products and concepts, to streamline processes, which help speed up our claims process for customers. If they fail, they’re scrapped, and lessons from the experiment are used to guide future projects. If they succeed, we quickly push them out to our business units. Don’t be afraid to fail. Create a safe space within your organization for fresh ideas, where you can continuously try out game changers and learn from any mistakes.

Be transparent with employees. It’s important to have, a road map outlining the changes your organization needs to make and the steps that will get you there. Once that vision is in place, be sure to share it with your employees at all levels. Create a sense of urgency around the change by explaining why it’s necessary and the steps the organization will take to make sure it’s implemented in a timely, efficient manner. Be sure to show employees how they fit into the plan, so they can better understand the role they’ll play. And once people begin to buy into the plan, make those early adopters your advocates, providing them with the right information and tools to educate their peers.

If your organization is open and transparent, you’ll build trust with your employees and your customers. Communication is also key — make sure you’re sending the right messages, to stakeholders on a regular basis.

Hire the right people. Seek out candidates with an entrepreneurial mindset’ who have created change in their schools and workplaces. If everyone in your organization believes change is fun, it will be.

Change can be frightening, especially in today’s business world. Organizations not only have to monitor their competitors, but also keep an eye on start-ups outside their industry, and disrupters within their industry. However, if you’re ready for change — even better, if you create the change yourself — you’ll be well positioned to adapt and thrive, no matter what may happen.