Things Start-ups need to remember when taking on the big guy

Here’s something a post about the big guys versus the little guy will typically contain. First a parable derived from either Chinese or Japanese lore. A quote from a person who’s been there and done that (for name recognition let’s say Richard Branson, the patron saint of all entrepreneurs) and a feeling that you can do it too. Now that those pleasantries are out of the way, let’s talk about the ground realities, shall we?

Fact: The big guys are big for a reason.

There’s no disputing this fact. But from their bigness sprouts your first opportunity. And that is the blind spot they leave in servicing their smallest clients. And that’s your foot in the door. In any sector, whether financial, software or even creative, find the big guys most marginalised clientèle and make a play to convert them into your premiere client.

Fact: The big guys are always the pioneers.

Sure. But they’ve abandoned their pioneering ways and settled into a rut that doesn’t see them reinventing the wheel every so often. There is your second foot in the door. Being the smallest fish in the pond, your activities will not draw the attention until you’re in the limelight, so innovate, upset the applecart and draw clients’ attention to the fact that you can do things in half the time and at a fraction of the cost.

Fact: The big guys have their fingers in many pies.

True that. Which also means that as a small start up you can look for perceptibly ‘small’ opportunities that the big guy wouldn’t bother looking into simply because it isn’t worth his while. In the interim, a few of these ‘small’ opportunities payout and you, the erstwhile small guy have made an impression on the people who matter.

Fact: The big guy is like a walrus.

Let’s face it, big companies are colossal machines that take forever to react to things. They’re the walrus to your wasp. Moving quickly and decisively is something the wasp can do. For instance as a small competitor to a large firm, you must go the extra mile to deliver both quality and speed.

Fact: Everybody who’s anybody, knows the big guy.

That by no stretch of the imagination means they like the big guy or are not looking for more practical, viable and cost effective alternatives to the big guy. Here’s where as an entrepreneur, your ability to socialise, network and make a good impression, come to the fore. Modern business is as much about building a rapport and comfort zone with a client as it is about delivering results. So be the little guy that makes the big impression.

Fact: The big guy has admirers.

And here’s a corollary to that fact, they also have their share of detractors. And in these detractors lies your chance to make a mark for yourself and in the process win some admirers over. There are plenty of clients in the market who’ve been scorned by the big guy in some way, look for those clients and provide them with the kind of results even the big guy couldn’t possibly deliver. Considering the fact that you’re an entrepreneur, you will do that at any cost, after all, it is your first and in many cases your only chance to make a serious name for yourself.

Taking on the big guy needn’t mean declaring an open feud with him on a turf he owns (heck he probably built). It is about scouting opportunities, studying patterns, identifying gaps in the big guy’s intelligence and of course turning these into opportunities to really wow potential clients. Don’t think of it as a pitched battle but as sustained guerrilla warfare that will take a while but yield benefits as sure as daylight.


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