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Celebrating Resilience and Innovation: Lessons from Small Business Owners

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(BPT) - By Sarah Acton, Chief Marketing Officer, BILL

National Small Business Week rolls around once a year, but the impact that these businesses have on our livelihoods, families, communities and economies is astounding. In fact, 99.9% of American businesses are small and midsize businesses (SMBs). They are engines of our U.S. economy, and essential job creators — accounting for two out of three of all jobs created in the last 25 years, and employing more than 62 million Americans.

But SMBs are more than just the cornerstone of our nation’s economy. These entrepreneurs are also incredibly innovative, resilient and successful. One of my favorite parts about my job is the opportunity to speak with, and learn from, these entrepreneurs.

Whether you’re just starting out, or you’re running an established business, here are some of the best tips and advice I’ve learned from SMB leaders on how to be resilient and successful.

1. Harness the Power of Your Network

Don’t underestimate the strength that lies in your network. Knowing when and how to ask for help is a superpower. It’s about building bridges, fostering collaboration, and embracing the collective wisdom of your community.

Take Kreyòl Essence, a skin and hair care brand that harvests castor oil from Haiti. They were catapulted into the national limelight after their appearance on Shark Tank. While that was an incredibly valuable experience, Stéphane B. Jean-Baptiste, COO and Co-Founder, told me that a real key to success for them was building their network. They looked to their network for advice on everything from how to beef up their supply chain to what to expect when you’re scaling quickly.

Their network also led them to BILL, which helped them automate and streamline their financial operations. “Your network is a treasure trove of knowledge and solutions; reaching out can transform your business,” Stéphane told me, demonstrating that effective networking can lead to solutions that drive growth.

2. Maximize the ROI of your most valuable asset - YOU

Almost every SMB leader I speak to started their business because they want to serve their customers with amazing products or services. That’s what they want to spend their time on — not managing the back-office or getting bogged down in manual processes. The key to success for many of these leaders has been embracing technology to be more efficient and productive.

Co-CEO and Co-Founder Brenden Martin of Joe Coffee is a great example of an innovator in this space. Joe Coffee created point-of-sale and mobile ordering software for small coffee shops. Their technology is helping local cafés compete with corporate giants by giving them advanced technology to better serve their customers.

Brenden’s advice for other businesses: “Do the boring thing first, because you need to put all your focus on building what your customers want. Any time and attention that’s not going into that, you’re failing.” This is one of the reasons why Brenden also partners with BILL, so he can leverage technology to automate their financial processes, reduce manual workload and allow the company to focus on core business growth areas.

In a competitive environment, technology can be a strategic advantage for businesses. Whether you’re leveraging technology like Joe Coffee to help better serve your customers, or BILL’s integrated Financial Operations Platform, these innovations can be an unlock for success and growth.

3. Be Flexible and Ready to Pivot

Running an agile business isn’t just about adjusting to changes. It’s about actively embracing the opportunity to pivot when the situation calls for it. It’s this ability to swiftly shift directions that keeps a business dynamic, relevant and resilient.

Take Dagne Dover, a fantastic business designing problem-solving bags. When they were hit with the unexpected challenge of the pandemic right after opening their New York City retail store, they didn’t just adapt; they transformed their setback into an opportunity for connection and support. They reshaped their product line to suit the ‘new normal’ — less focus on travel and office bags, and more focus on promoting handy fanny packs to carry masks and hand sanitizer for quick errands.

COO and Co-Founder Deepa Gandhi recently told me, “We are always thinking about what day-to-day, week-to-week needs can we address? What’s our customer not using our product for?” This pivot wasn’t just a strategic move — it was a heartfelt response to their customers' changing lives, strengthening their bond with the community. As Deepa told me, it’s helped them build loyal customers for life.

4. Build a Team That Grows Together

If you have a great idea, you can build a business. If you also have a great team, the possibilities are endless.

Every business leader I talk to emphasizes the importance of their team. The strongest teams are not necessarily the ones with the most experience or the biggest salaries — great teams are ones that grow together, that believe in the mission, and share your passion to serve customers.

How do you build a team for success? McKenzie and Colby Bauer, founders of Thread Wallets, gave great advice. Like many small business owners, initially they took on multiple roles, from customer service to product design. However, McKenzie realized the power of delegation: “I was doing so much, but I learned it’s crucial to ‘Do what you do best, and hire out the rest.’” This approach not only allowed them to focus on their strengths, but also fostered a team dynamic where everyone plays to their strengths. This has helped them build their company’s reputation for quality and innovation.

Every Journey is Different, Every Journey Matters

For me, National Small Business Week is an opportunity to honor the incredible contribution these businesses make. As a former small business owner myself, I know that running a business is never easy — but it’s an incredible journey that should be celebrated.

At BILL, we’re more than just observers of their incredible entrepreneurial spirit; we’re active participants, offering the trusted financial tools that small businesses need to thrive. We champion small and midsize businesses and work hard every day to support their journey — because we know just how hard they work every day for us. So as we celebrate the spirit of small business, let’s embrace these lessons, and take inspiration from their innovation, resilience and contribution. To learn more, visit bill.com. Here’s to the indomitable spirit of small business owners everywhere!