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Being Small May Well Be Your Biggest Asset

small-business-blog-small-vs-lg-businessMany entrepreneurs are most defensive about the fact that their company is small, or worse, intimidated by the fact that their competitors are large. When, if truth be told, their size can be their biggest asset.

History is littered with stories of how small, yet nimble bands of guerrilla fighters with a deep belief in their mission, have often, out-maneuvered, out-thought and defeated larger, better equipped armies. In the United States' formative years, a rag-tag group of dedicated militiamen defeated a British Army that often outnumbered them by 10 to 1.

If you were to find commonality in history where small defeated large you would find four main characteristics - an unbending belief in the mission, selective engagement (the essence of guerrilla fighting and the subject of a previous blog post), flexibility to "think outside the box" and agility to be able to mobilize and strike quickly. And by applying these same principals, the small business can succeed, time and again in competitive encounters!

Let's consider each and how you can apply them in your situation.

Unbending Belief in Your Mission

This is simply passion, of which I've spoken many times. And it, obviously, goes without saying, but you'd be surprised by how many small business owners "stop believing" in times of competitive adversity. "Rolling over" or declining to work a situation because of an entrenched competitor, even though they have a better product and better pricing. As the oft-used Journey song goes, "don't stop believing!"

Selective Engagement

Again, another subject about which I've spoken before. But, in a nutshell, it means to pick and choose those situations where the odds are best for victory. You don't, necessarily walk away from a battle because you can't win, but because you can't fight all the battles. Being, small, you are resource-constrained, so use your resources wisely.


This is the ability to find a way to "change the rules" of engagement. Now, of course, you can't change the "market rules," but you sure can adjust the playing field but doing something completely "out of the box" that favors you. For example, I have a company that I advise, who is one of the smallest players in a market dominated by one major player. This large company has dictated a pricing policy that is not only "a la carte," for products and services, but tends to low-ball initial bids and then counts on "add-ons" after the contract is signed to get the price up into the stratosphere. Other competitors have followed suit. The only losers were the customers. So my client decided to change the rules. They established a "single line" price that "changed the rules," made them stand out and made things more difficult for competitive comparison. Results? A series of competitive wins because the competition wouldn't or couldn't (see below) react.


This is simply being able to react quickly to either market opportunities or changing market conditions. Typically, a large company has a specific way of doing business, often documented by a book of processes and procedures (not that this is wrong) that makes changing strategies or tactics akin to turning a battleship or getting a law passed through Congress. But the small company operates by more simple dictums (like survival) that help it to better react to specific situations. I had another small company client that was able to announce, roll-out and secure customers with a new product offering that capitalized on recently-passed legislation that enabled them to capture market share a solid six months before any competitive response. By being quick and nimble they created a market lead, that while competitors eroded over time, the never lost.

Use your passion. Pick your battles. Be flexible...but smart. Be nimble where competition is plodding. These are the keys to small beating large. These are the keys to making your size your biggest asset.

Master Yoda knows these things. His job it is. May success be with you!


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