IN A fast-paced landscape bent on disruption, it can be difficult for larger legacy businesses to hold their ground. 

For companies struggling to keep up with rapid shifts in the market, strangled by startups or constantly a step behind competitors, one Adelaide-based expert believes it's time to start thinking like a small entrepreneur in order to effect big change.

Jo Schneider has spent a working lifetime developing her own entrepreneurial flair, and as the director of DVE Business Solutions she works to improve systems for many prominent organisations including the University of Technology Sydney, ClinEdSA and the University of South Australia.

Schneider says established businesses are beginning to catch on to the do-or-die sentiment that now commonly drives the market for small enterprises and startups across the country.

"Large organisations are realising that they need to be more fluid and agile within the current market; we're seeing this within banking and financial institutions especially," says Schneider.

"Any big corporate entities that have operated very much within their own steadfast processes for years have to start changing the way they do business to keep up with the market, and it's a big ship to turn."

This doesn't mean that businesses looking to improve their situation need to charge headfirst into a model overhaul. In fact, Schneider suggests the opposite.

She says the key to building a more flexible, responsive and competitive business lies in giving a certain degree of responsibility and autonomy to all employees, from the sales floor up.

"In many of our projects we work with lower level staff," says Schneider.

"If managers and committees have put up lots of red tape, yes it can be an issue, but all levels of staff need to take a good look at the small changes they can make in their own job."

Managers also need to erase the stigma surrounding risk-taking and allow employees to make controlled mistakes in pursuit of their long-term goals.

"There's a real culture at the corporate level set against failing, particularly when targets or KPI's are at stake," says Schneider.

"However managers have to give people the correct framework to fail and to give their employees a means of individually building resilience."

For companies that don't know where to start implementing change, Schneider believes open discussion and idea-sharing is always the best place to begin.

"Executives need to get all the right people in the room talking, and they need to provide a forum where its ok to be open and honest," she says.

"They need to have thought about the risk of what they're doing, and put some boundaries in place to let staff be empowered within their own jobs.

"My biggest tip is to start small; a small team, a small risk and a small change. It's a culture of continuous improvement, because you can make little sustainable adjustments each day, but it's impossible to do it all at once."

With a background in mechanical engineering, Schneider left a senior manufacturing position with Holden in 2008 to launch her first company Animal Therapeutics Online.

Since then, her business prowess has been recognised by numerous honours and awards including the 2014 South Australian Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year.

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