Why the Leopard Should Consider Changing Its Spots

It’s a jungle out there, or so the saying goes. In this particular jungle, let’s say the leopard is king – heavy and powerful – it eats infrequently and when it decides to hunt, it’s a big event. The cheetah, on the other hand, hunts quite differently. With its lean structure and swift metabolism, it gets out there more, hunting fast and often and at much greater risk to itself.

Bushveld metaphors aside, small businesses are edgier, more personal and nimble. With fewer layers of management to plough through, small companies can adapt to emerging markets in the time it takes to lap up a tall latte.

What’s more, small companies get closer to their customers, offering them a more personal experience – complaints are dealt with faster and in a more customised way – leading to longer-term customer relationships. For the most part, small companies’ employees are also happier, seldom suffering from cog-in-wheel syndrome, often a symptom of working for a large corporation.

But the business landscape is an ecosystem where each organism plays its part. So, why should the leopard concern itself with the quirks of the cheetah? Well, survival is everyone’s business – whether your metabolism can sustain you for a long time, or whether you need to hunt constantly – markets change, and these days, even cheetahs struggle to keep up.

Recent research conducted by Forrester, one of the world’s foremost authorities on customer experience, revealed that a brand’s success used to be measured by the customer’s perception of it. Now, the prevailing attitude amongst customers centres on loyalty – make me feel valued, resolve my issues (quickly), and speak to me in plain language – is the new mantra for success.

Taking a page from the small companies’ pocketbook of professional prowess, consider these four propositions:

  1. Get personal
    Inside and out, successful business is conducted in a way that engages with the individual. Not only should your business connect with the customer, but garnering a sense of family within the culture of your business will also spill over into the way your employees deal with customers. Both employees and customers should know exactly how your business works.
  1. Be (more) flexible
    Set clear goals for your key employees. If those targets are reached, what does it matter if they don’t keep regular hours? Offer those that have proved their loyalty to the cause the option of working from home once or twice a week.
  1. Adapt to local needs
    By nature, small businesses meet local needs, which is vital to the success of the economy. Get your hands a little dirty – make yourself relevant by developing a taste for local flavour. Then, find ways of closing the gap between big business generic and artisanal specificity.
  1. Embrace technology
    Of course, getting techy helps any business to connect with its customers across social media, web and other digital platforms – but getting the right equipment also allows your employees to get out there to connect with customers one-on-one while still being connected to the office.

A leopard may not be able to change its spots, but with a few behavioural tweaks, it might better secure its survival. Just as small business is vital to the economy – introducing and developing new ideas that shape our world, so too do we need big business to survive in order to ensure that good ideas are perpetuated.


Daniel Andrew, 3 Sept. 2014, Small Business Can Offer Big Benefits to Attract the Best Talent

Kermit Burley, Advantages Small Companies Have Over Large Companies

NFTE-UK Case Study, businesscasestudies.co.uk