Startups are known for their ability to adapt quickly. Discover how this mentality can help your established small business thrive.

Startups are uniquely positioned to thrive in rough economic times because they are agile. They embrace the advantages of low overhead, simplified operations, and a do-what-it-takes mentality. That’s why, in a down economy, startups are born. As an entrepreneur and a marketer who has helped both startups and legacy companies rapidly advance to the next level, I’ve seen first-hand how businesses that quickly and readily embrace change move swiftly into new strategies and win—even in times of economic uncertainty.

These rapid-growth strategies aren’t just for budding businesses, though. When the economy trends down and the market is volatile, legacy companies, longstanding businesses, and even industry leaders must look to new strategies to stay competitive and relevant. Small businesses need to go back to their roots—even if those roots are decades behind them–and adopt the hungry, driven, and relentless mindset they had at the beginning.

Start by analyzing essential processes.

One thing all scrappy startups have in common is that, at the end of the day, they get things done. To become more agile, look first at your essential processes and systems. Payments, workflow management, communications, and so on. Startup leaders, especially now, know how to keep these processes moving without much to hinder them—after all, they’re still in the beginnings of the business. If they don’t push forward, they will fail because they do not have a long-established business reputation to fall back on.

Companies miss out on agility when they settle into old processes. For example, payment processing is perhaps the most essential process for ensuring that clients are paying their bills—and your company is getting paid—and yet it’s one that has lacked innovation. Companies using old-fashioned bank-draft systems should consider streamlined options to improve the customer experience and keep cash flowing. Disruptors like Regpack are bringing agility to payment systems by automating installment plans and other administrative tasks and making submitting payments simple for customers. Reduced administrative work, increased customer satisfaction, and on-time payments all contribute to financial stability and faster business results.

Think beyond the basics.

Startup leaders are known for their willingness to try new systems. Many companies already use digital project management systems, automated admin systems, HR systems, and information management systems, but to be truly agile, you must think even further beyond the basics.

Whether your company is in a newer field, like tech, or a traditional field, like medicine, you should look for platforms and systems that can speed up your workflows. Nine times out of 10, you can find an industry-specific technology to do just that. For example, in the biotechnology industry, delivering data-driven results that are based on research requires an extensive and largely manual process. Deloitte recently reported on the key priorities for biopharma companies to stay competitive. Aside from expanding global reach, the top priorities named include strengthening research and development and improving the use of digital and IT technologies. Major pharma companies Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck and research universities like MIT and Oxford are turning to Dotmatics, a company that is streamlining the speed of the research and development process to make biotechs more agile. Agility comes from using available technology wherever possible and being open to trying new things.

Digitize, digitize, digitize.

Startups know that modernization is essential for agility—that’s why so many of them use remote workstyles and digitize their processes. But many legacy companies seem to forget about this and hold onto tech they’ve owned for years (sometimes decades). Many companies are still using paper-based documentation to manage essential documents and processes. Why? Because they think the lift of digitization is daunting. Because they’ve been doing it for years, so why change it? But the amount of time and effort wasted on manual practices reduces agility and increases wasted funds. In today’s market, digitization is non-negotiable.

So how can you convert years and years of physical, paper-based assets into a digital form?

Tech, again, is the answer! Digitizing pioneer Ibml is the go-to source for high-volume, mission-critical document capture technology that accelerates the digitalization process. The company’s high-volume scanner makes it easy to turn your hard copies into digital documents by the thousands, so there are no more excuses for holding onto outdated processes.

Develop your team.

One thing that startups have going for them is that their teams are automatically cross-functional. A small team requires that everyone be an equal player and helpful across the board. This requires a team of people who are skilled and versed in multiple areas. But larger companies often end up creating silos for their teams and thus reducing their effectiveness.

Developing your team is an essential part of ensuring that they can collaborate, innovate, and take on cross-functional roles. But don’t let this process be cumbersome, and don’t schedule an all-day, in-person training session. Be agile. Train in the digital space and leverage digital assets created by others that are relevant to your business. One example of this is 2U, a company that enables rapid upskilling and training through technology. Meta, IBM, Google, Netflix, and others all use their technology to bridge talent gaps and create opportunities for learners who are oftentimes left behind by the high barriers to accessing traditional education. Skills training and mentorship programs built through the platform help companies develop their teams and add value to the employee experience.

The best way to stay competitive in a down economy is to think like a startup. Speed and agility are the two strategies every company—regardless of industry—must embrace at this time. Tech will take you there. Lean on technology and systems that make work more agile and enable you to take advantage of a down economy so you can scale and grow.

This article was written by Shama Hyder from Inc. and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to

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