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Three Tips From Microsoft to Apply to Small Biz

CEO Steve Ballmer's strategy for his big business can be equally effective in small businesses.

If there ever has been a small business lesson to be learned from a big business brouhaha, Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report bid to buy Yahoo! (YHOO) is it.

Of course, it is no wonder why the behemoth from Redmond wanted to buy the behemoth from the Silicon Valley ... namely a


(GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report

-sized behemoth that has passed them both by, at least online.

In the end, Yahoo!'s price was too steep (at least for now) and Microsoft walked. So what are we to make of it all?

The answer: Listen to Steve Ballmer.

Steve Ballmer was the first business manager hired by Bill Gates and has risen through the ranks to become Microsoft CEO. This guy knows business as well as anyone on the planet.

On May 1, Ballmer spoke with Microsoft employees to talk about the Yahoo! deal, and more broadly, to discuss what their business needs to do to compete in this new, 24/7, interconnected, global economy.

The interesting thing is, Ballmer's lessons for his big business apply equally to our small businesses:



Do the basics very well

: No matter what business you are in, you cannot take things to the next level, or withstand a recession, if that is your situation, if you are not handling the basics.

Remember An Internet start-up back in the heyday of Internet start-ups, the company had a popular sock puppet mascot and million dollar Superbowl ads, but, strangely, no workable plan to master the basics of what it was supposed to do, namely sell pet accessories.

That's why it went from raising $82.5 million in an IPO to collapsing a mere nine months later.

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Follow Ballmer's advice. No business is going anywhere if it doesn't do well that which it is supposed to do. If you are an accountant, be extra thorough. If yours is a pizza shop, don't skimp on the cheese. Do the basics -- very well.



We need to innovate

: No business stays in business long if it does not adapt, change with the times and innovate. Of course, what innovation means to you and me is quite a bit different than what it means to Microsoft, but the idea is the same.

One easy way to innovate is to just keep an eye on what your competition is doing. What is their Web site like? How do they market their business? Keep abreast of what others are doing and consider making changes accordingly.



We need to change the game

: While Ballmer was talking about something as big as "how people consume information," for our purposes, changing the game means that the savvy small business person will also consider changing even essential ways of doing business when necessary.

I just finished writing the second edition of my book,

The Small Business Bible

, because things have changed a lot in business in just the five years since it was first published -- new chapters cover everything from new technology and green business to e-business, globalization and more.

So, whether it is adopting new technology or embracing an online version of your business, or whatever, don't be afraid to change your game.

That way, you won't be forced to try and buy Yahoo!.

Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and USA TODAY columnist. His latest book is the

Small Business Bible

. He has spoken around the world about entrepreneurship, including at the United Nations, and has been seen on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC,

The O?Reilly Factor

, and many other television and radio shows. He maintains a Website at