When a big company moves into your town, it can be a big opportunity or a threat to your company's survival. For example, one of my former neighbors ran a local department store. When WalMart moved to the town next door, his company lost business and ultimately shut down.

On the other hand, WalMart's opening up operations in the town created opportunities for local construction companies and food retailers who captured part of the traffic that the local WalMart brought in. What's more, the arrival of a large new company creates demand for housing, food, medical services, schools and recreational activities.

All this comes to mind in considering the November 13 news that Amazon plans to hire 55,000 highly-paid people divided between Long Island City, New York, Arlington, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee.

More specifically, Amazon will hire 25,000 people paid an average of $150,000 a year in both Long Island City -- which is in Queens -- and National Landing, Virginia (the newly-created term that refers to Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard.) Amazon will pay 5,000 people the same amount on average to run its Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville.

Even if you are not located in one of these areas, Amazon could be moving to your location. For example, Amazon announced that it would create 2,000 jobs in Boston's Seaport District -- which is a great consolation prize for the city which is already suffering from a tight labor market, soaring housing prices, bad traffic, and strained public transportation.

If your small business is located near where Amazon is moving in, here are three things you should do.

1. Figure out whether Amazon presents a threat or opportunity.

As the WalMart example I gave makes clear, a large company moving into town can be a threat or an opportunity (or maybe both). Amazon has been around for so long that its threat to retailers and other competitors is quite clear.

If you are competing with Amazon and it's moving is HQ2 to your area, you have probably already figured out how to survive its competitive impact. However, if Amazon is moving to your town, it will present a new threat -- it could be competing for your most talented employees.

To find out, investigate the local jobs that Amazon is trying to fill -- for example, here are its Glassdoor listings for Arlington, Virginia. If your top people could be great candidates for those jobs, Amazon's HQ2 is a threat to your business.

If you are not competing with Amazon, then its move to your town could represent an opportunity. For example, if HQ2 means new construction in your area and you're a construction company, the move has the potential to boost your business.

More generally, there could be short- and longer-term business opportunities for small businesses in the places where Amazon is opening up offices. For example, there are projects in Northern Virginia that could be opportunities for local engineering and construction firms.

2. If Amazon's a threat, defend yourself.

If Amazon moves to town, it could be seeking to hire your employees. Whether that is a real threat depends heavily on what specific positions Amazon is looking to fill in the offices that it's opening locally. For the HQ2 offices in New York, Virginia, and Tennessee not too much is known about the skills Amazon will be looking to attract.

As noted above, you can check Amazon's job listings online for positions that it's seeking to fill in those locations. And if you have highly paid people with skills in coding, engineering management, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, sales, marketing, or service then Amazon might be interested in hiring them.

If your top people are on Amazon's radar for its HQ2, you need to check in with them to see if they are happy with their career opportunities and compensation. You have to decide whether you want to offer them more proactively -- or wait to see if they get an offer from Amazon. If they do, you need to decide how much more you can give them to encourage them to stay. 

Defending your customers from Amazon is a never-ending battle. Listen to your customers, if they are buying more from Amazon, find out why. To win back that business offer customers more value -- e.g., better quality, service or prices -- than Amazon does. 

3. If Amazon's an opportunity, develop a strategy to seize it.

Does Amazon's arrival represent an opportunity to boost your business? If so, you might consider hiring a former Amazon employee who knows how to navigate inside the company. For example, use LinkedIn to identify managers in its real estate department. Recruit such people to help you sell Amazon products or services that will be needed to build and operate the HQ2 location.

Of course, you will need to compete for Amazon's business as you would for any other new customer. But hiring a former Amazon employee could give you an edge against rivals.

If you can move fast, Amazon could become a nice addition to your business. Just be careful not to become too dependent on the company because if Amazon switches to another supplier, you could be wiped out.

Published on: Nov 15, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.