For many smaller businesses and start-ups, the idea of competing against bigger, more established companies can be daunting. In fact, being small can be a major asset if you know how to turn it to your advantage.
One of the best things about a well-run SME is the ability to get things done fast. Free from the restrictions and inefficiencies that come with complicated management hierarchies and huge, independently-run departments where no one knows each other’s names, employees in a small company tend to know exactly what their colleagues are working on, how crucial their individual contributions are to a project’s success and who to ask for what in a crisis. They feel a far greater sense of personal responsibility for the company doing well, meaning that they’ll stay late to tackle a last minute project and happily go above and beyond to dig a colleague out of a hole. It’s hard to translate that culture of camaraderie into a conglomerate, meaning that larger clients are frequently amazed at how a tightly-knit team full of ambitious grafters can turn around work at lightning pace.
As well as speed, small companies have nimbleness and adaptability on their side. If client requests and requirements start taking you in a different direction to your business plan, so be it. You learn some new skills, change your hiring strategy and rewrite your website copy. No mergers, acquisitions or departmental sell-offs required.
And then there’s the personal touch. Small companies that cultivate strong relationships with a relatively small portfolio of companies are able to learn their client’s business inside out, continually keeping an eye out for new ways to add value. Getting a foot in the door might be tricky but, once achieved, small businesses can provide an attentive, dedicated service that is not always offered by larger firms content to rest on their laurels. What’s more, because smaller outfits are less likely to be seen as a threat by larger firms, they can also tap into opportunities for “white labelling.” By providing supporting services to these larger firms in dealing with their own clients, SMEs often find that both parties come to trust and rely on them, helping them to enter new markets and boost their own reputation – without having to pitch against larger competitors at all.
For SMEs who are willing to embrace their small size and turn it into a positive, the question is not so much “how do I compete against the big players” as “how can I best leverage my position as an SME?”