Focusing on the Startup Advantage: How to Beat Big Corporations

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Challenging the big guys as a startup is no easy feat. Small businesses have their work cut out for them: obviously, they have limited funds and manpower to compete with conglomerates. However, there are many startup advantages that smaller businesses have over their larger counterparts.

Most successful startups that were able to disrupt markets will tell you that it was their ability to listen to the market and the sheer speed of implementation that shaped their success.

Ability to listen to the market

You get what you focus on.

When a company gets bigger, more departments are formed and more responsibilities are segmented. As a result, the larger the pie to handle, the more energy is needed to keep everything running. This leads to becoming more distant from personal contact.

Jack Ma, chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group, said that whenever he goes to lecture in big companies, what he sees are concerns for numbers and KPI’s. But when he gives talks to small and medium sized companies, he sees passion and dreams.

Get feedback from your customers, all the while considering what is best for the direction of the company. The next step relies on this. We are so conditioned to speak than we are to listen. The power of the ear is as important as the power of the brain. Here are some questions to ponder on:

  • Which do you think gets people’s attention?
  • What connects to your audience and why?
  • Do you listen to what your market wants or needs?

Speed of implementation

The bureaucracy found in most Fortune 500 companies slows down the dissemination of information from bottom up as well as top down.

Startups don’t have this disadvantage.

That “big things come in small packages” rings true here. Startups like Dollar Shave Club, Instagram, and Whatsapp disrupted the market despite their size. Bigger isn’t exactly better in this case.

The speed of implementation also hinges on the word “implementation.” Implementation requires action. Action is a word a lot of people fear. The most feared word however, is change.

Adaptation is the root for our survival as a species, as Charles Darwin put it. It is also the same for businesses.

One does not have to look any further than Nokia to understand how it managed to have a stronghold on mobile phone market share for the longest time, only to lose out in a few short years to relatively newer players like Apple and Samsung. Being late doesn’t mean you will be last to succeed. But you may say, these companies are not exactly startups. Let’s take a look at those who are and made their marks:

  • Airbnb and its shake up of the hotel industry
  • Uber and its disruption of the local taxi business
  • Waze and its effects on GPS devices like Garmin

The advantages are under our nose, but we keep looking at things we don’t have, such as staff and funding, when we are running our businesses. What we should do is look at what we have. A business with a lot of flexibility and freedom to mold into market fit, coupled with the speed of adaptation.

Still not convinced that we startups have it good?

The late Steve Jobs was quoted as saying in his 2010 interview at D8, of being proud of the fact that he sees Apple as “the world’s largest startup.” Organized like a startup with zero committees.

What are you waiting for?

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