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Intimidated By The Competition? How Your Startup Can Take On The Big Guys

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When newly formed businesses size up the competition, they may not like what they see.

Often, major players in their industry are already well ahead of them, drawing in the customers or clients they covet, cornering the market on the best employees, and pushing around through their sheer size anyone who dares take them on.

But startups don’t necessarily have to blink in the face of the big guys, says Adam Witty, himself a successful entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“Certainly, major corporations have plenty of advantages over startups, from the assets they have available to the years of brand recognition they have worked to achieve,” says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com). “But you can work on creating a few advantages of your own – or at least create a more level playing field – if you approach things in the right way.”

He says some ways for budding entrepreneurs to do that include:

  • Know that adaptability is a key asset – and possibly an advantage. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of attention to the importance of being able to adapt, but it’s always been critical for businesses to respond to unanticipated changes in the market that threatened their product or business model, Witty says. “Being adaptable doesn’t mean just introducing a new product to your realm of offerings,” he says. “It requires constant attention to what’s going on in the world, analyzing your competitors, and most importantly, not getting too comfortable at the top of the pyramid.” In some cases, a startup can even have an advantage here, Witty says. Established businesses sometimes get stuck in their ways, and when disruptions happen in the economy or with customer habits, they are slow to make the necessary changes. A good example of this was Blockbuster, the video rental company that failed to see the threat that annoying upstarts like Netflix posed.
  • Turn customers and clients into raving fans. The most profitable companies in the world boast the most fanatical clients and customers, Witty says. “Think about Apple, which does many things very, very well,” he says. “One of them is servicing the customer first. And Apple excels in communicating its mission to its audience. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh once said, ‘Customer service shouldn’t just be a department. It should be the entire company.’ To create loyalty, you must show customers that you not only are grateful for their business, but that you value their relationship.”
  • Establish yourself as the authority in your field. Positioning yourself as the go-to person in your field allows you to create an unfair advantage in the marketplace by immediately positioning you above others in the same field, Witty says. One way to do that is by writing a book because then you are not only an authority on your topic, but you “wrote the book on it.” But you can also begin to establish your authority through media interviews and speaking engagements, Witty says.

Finally, Witty says he’s fond of telling his employees, “When it comes to decision making, if we’re going to go with opinions, we’ll go with mine.”

In reality, he doesn’t want to make decisions based on even his opinion; he prefers facts and data.

“For a startup or any business to be successful,” Witty says, “you should let employees know that you are open to their ideas, but you also expect those ideas to be backed up with facts and data that demonstrate why it’s a good idea. That kind of decision making is the best way for your business to grow, prosper and dominate the competition.”