We live in the age of startups and it is no wonder that people see them as this antithesis to big corporations that used to run the world just a couple of decades ago. Moreover, people are constantly writing about the lessons big companies have to take from startups’ success. Today, however, I pose something different. I pose that startups also have a lot to learn from big companies. In fact, startups can greatly improve their chances of survival by taking a page out of the big business book.

1. Know Your Customers

Big companies spend huge amounts of money on market research and they have entire teams of analysts who go through the figures and the trends, trying to predict the behavior of their customers. Big companies understand that their livelihood hangs on being able to sell their product/service to their customers and they never forget this.

In the startup world, this is something that is often lost. People jealously stick with their idea even though it may not be the best in the world. Then, when they launch, they realize that there are no paying customers for their product/service. This is instant death for startups.

Before you do anything. Before you raise money or even start working on your product, make sure people want it and need it. More importantly, make sure they want to pay for it.

Talk to the people in your circle. Go outside your circle, talk to people who may be in the industry or who might be your perfect customer. Use a paid survey company to gauge the public for you. Do some surveys on your own. Blast out some emails.

Only when you know who your customers are and what you can expect from them can you be sure your startup will succeed.

2. Hire Carefully

Big companies have departments and budgets dedicated solely to hiring, training and retaining the best employees they can find. They also have strictly standardized hiring policies and different ways to make sure they are hiring the best people still without employment.

When the time comes for startups to hire people, this is often rushed and there is nothing that can be quite as harmful for a startup as the wrong hire. For one, this wrong hire will never be as productive as someone who is more qualified for the position. They will also have troubles becoming engaged and giving their all to the startup. Finally, they are much more likely to leave the startup at the first sign of a better offer.

Startups are very dependent on its earliest employees and when you run a startup, you need to be super serious about hiring. Learn about it, establish some standard practices and make sure you do some employer marketing.

3. Maintain Your Reputation

As a startup, your reputation is all you have. You do not have a back catalogue of products or services to show to your prospective investors, partners and customers. You only have the reputation of how your startup has fared since its inception.

Because of this, it is crucial for startup owners to spend time managing their reputation and making sure their startup is associated only with good things.

This will entail ensuring the quality of the product (service), great customer service, honoring deals and safeguarding your customers’ personal information. Reputation management will also involve an online presence that shows off a company which cares about its customers, its employees and the world we live in.

There are good reasons why big companies employ agencies whose only job it is to keep their reputation intact.