When drawing inspiration for business success, it doesn’t hurt to look at the tactics of those right at the top of their game. After all, these are companies that have fought their way above the competition to become global behemoths through trial and error, and the lessons they have to impart can be of use to other organisations of any size and industry.

Walmart

Love them or hate them, Walmart knows its business. It began as a simple discount store back in the 40s, and is now the largest retailer, the largest private employer, and the largest company by revenue, in the world. Over the years the company has introduced a huge number of initiatives to streamline operations, cut costs, and make the consumer experience that much better. As with any major retail concern, it has been transformed by technology. One instance is the way that warehouse inventory and point-of-sale data is streamed to a centralised database, allowing suppliers to quickly and efficiently restock whenever necessary. The message here is – determine where technology can improve your business, and invest accordingly. There is no shortage of ways that introducing new tech can benefit a large organisation, from investment in the Cloud to gain economies of scale, to 1E software that allows firms to cut their power consumption or identify unused, unnecessary and expensive programs that may be installed across thousands of PCs.

Google

The search giant has blazed a trail with so many products, services and initiatives that no business could fail to find inspiration. Look, for instance, at the fascinatingly powerful and complex search engine, yet how elegantly simple the homepage remains. But one of the things Google is most famous for is something no-one outside the company actually knows, the secret behind their mysterious page-rank algorithm. SEO experts can make an educated guess, but unless there’s a serious leak, it’s unlikely anyone will ever know for sure how the search engine determines which results should appear in what order. The lesson to be drawn from Google – foster what makes your business special, your customer service skill, your innovative R&D, and protect it well.

Facebook

“The Social Network” was generally praised for its accuracy when it came to describing the history of the world’s favourite social media platform. In particular, it stressed the speed at which Facebook, or The Facebook as it was initially known, was created. Zuckerberg didn’t mess around. Not for him the usual path of entrepreneurs – in-depth research into market conditions, drawing and redrawing of business plans, planning years ahead before taking a step forward – he just had a good idea, quickly developed it and rolled it out from his dorm room, and continued to expand as fast as he could, before any competitors (or angry former business partners) could steal a march on him. If your company comes up with a winning idea then, it doesn’t pay to stand still, because the chances are it won’t be long before someone else comes up with it too.

Tata Group

This multinational is India’s best-known brand, with operations across 6 continents. In the UK alone it employs more than 60,000 people through brands such as Land Rover and Tetley Tea. It is also one of the world’s most reputable companies, with a solid commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility. Over half of the company’s equity is owned by philanthropic trusts, and it is known for making long-term investments within the areas it operates. One example of this philanthropism in action is the large number of apprenticeships it offers in British Steel, giving vital on-the-job experience to UK students. This dedication to CSR makes suppliers and customers trust the company; it also makes people want to work for it, and so they are able to attract the best and brightest.

Apple

What can we learn from Apple? Simply this – never stop innovating. From the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad to the iWatch, they make products that people want to own not purely because of their functionality (simple, easy to operate), but because of the statement they make. And Apple’s dedication to innovation doesn’t stop with the physical product. It extends to its customer service. Visit any Apple store anywhere around the world, and you’re free to explore the huge range in a friendly, welcoming environment. The Genius bar is there to resolve any issues with your device quickly and at no extra cost. It’s no surprise that Apple consistently top consumer satisfaction polls. So – never stop innovating and…never neglect the most important part of your business – your customers.