The titans of the business world lumber along, often slow and steady, sometimes surprisingly fast and seem to get all of the breaks in life. They make trading on a global scale look effortless and natural and competing with them as a small company seems insurmountable, so what are you supposed to do to compete with that? How can your business thrive on the global stage?
The simple answer is that you don’t compete. If you play their game, you will lose. This does not however mean that you are helpless and doomed to failure over all. There are two key things you can work on to further your cause.
Playing to your strengths
Underdogs can and frequently do come out on top and they do this not by overpowering their stronger competition but by outmanoeuvring them or by catching them out in an area that they are superior on.
In an article written for the New Yorker, the influential Malcolm Gladwell cites the example of Lawrence of Arabia who identified that the mercenary troops at his disposal were not a disciplined unit of coordinated fighters but that they were individually intelligent and highly mobile. Therefore, instead of engaging on his enemy’s terms of assaulting heavily defended outposts, he instead ran rings around them wearing them down by attacking railway lines to disrupt their supply and outlast the enemy.
To provide a less cerebral example, the Jamaican bobsleigh team in Cool Runnings did not find their footing by pretending to be Germans.
History is full of examples of underdogs coming out of nowhere and toppling an entrenched incumbent and if you are a small business and are currently surviving, you probably already have the area that should form the core of your global strategy.
One of the basic tenants of business is that when you enter into a market, in order to survive as a company you need to do just one thing better than everyone else and it doesn’t really matter what that is. By making sure the core of your business is as solid as it can be with an appropriately sturdy company structure, the right level of business insurance and a strong team to carry you, then you will be able to put what you do better than everyone else at the core of your global strategy and start fighting on your own terms.
If you are truly engaging the competition in the areas that you excel in, then your business will gather steam and start growing no matter where you launch it or who you launch it alongside. This does however come with one major caveat: you must be patient.
The press frequently picks up on startups and small companies that rocket on to the global stage and make their founders over-night millionaires. If this happens to you, then you are the exception and not the rule. It is far more likely that you will have to keep at this for many years before you see any significant success but this does not mean that it will not happen.
I will leave you with an excellent excerpt from the New York Times’ interview with Louis CK, the poster-child for incredibly successful self promotion and self publishing in the incredibly competitive and highly saturated market of stand up comedy:
“There’s people that say ‘It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.’ I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this, and by ‘new at it,’ I mean 15 years in, or even 20, you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s? You picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.”
Whilst what he says is clearly geared towards show business, business business is no less of a stage at the global level. Know what you’re good at, stay patient and the rest will be much easier.