How learning from the past can shape your small business

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By Henry Brown

We always need to look to the past to determine that what we’re doing in the present is the right thing. It’s always been said, ‘Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it’, and that saying has never been more true than in the world of business.

As a small business owner yourself, you can take a leaf out of these history books. You can learn from both those who established themselves in record time, or even failed within the first year, and be sure you’re both on the right track and not making similar mistakes. And you can start with the points below.

Putting a pin in the market map

Looking into the business history of the past can help you to put a pin in the map where it concerns your own market. You’re trying to build an extensive and loyal customer base here, and that’s something businesses have had to do for a long, long time. You’re guaranteed to learn a thing or two about supply and demand!

Indeed, experts such as Heidi Schave strongly suggest delving into how society has operated in the past, to see how it’s changed, and how your own marketing strategies need to evolve with it. No longer is word of mouth such a strong advertising technique; we have more digital means to rely on now, and maybe that’s where your focus should be.

Preventing panic in slow periods

Similarly, the world of business has always faced slow periods throughout the year. Some companies are seasonal by nature, yes, but most operate all year round, and suffer slow sales as a result. And the key thing to learn here, as case studies from the past 20 or 30 years can show you, is not to panic when these periods hit.

The business world can move fast, but it can also move slowly; when something new is invented and is claimed to be the cutting edge of shopping technology, this same tech can be slow to adopt. Just take a look at contactless payments, for example. All in all, work with the slow periods, and save for the fast ones.

Looking to the future is key

Looking to the future of your company is key. You should always be thinking long term, as the market doesn’t stay the same way for long, which has been repeatedly shown to us.

For example, shopping online was something only a handful of people did 20 years ago. Now, it’s beating out physical stores, and in 2019, big shopping events like Black Friday saw a 6.2% decrease in physical sales from the previous year. It’s clear that people want convenience from their money off deals, and knowing this is something you can use to your advantage!

So, maybe it’s time to pick up a history of business book, or maybe go on an economic history course, and see what insights you can gain about your own company.


Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop, he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.

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