David or Goliath - who wins?

Let's face it, most all organisations start off small with the idea of one single entrepreneur.  If you are a small organisation, or an individual, it's so easy to feel dwarfed by enormous, some might say successful, organisations out there.  However, let's face it, most all organisations start off small with a single idea that one person feels passionate about.   Fortune favours the bold. But on a more practical level what does makes small companies think they can do it?  And should larger companies be scared?

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead

Exhibiting at a digital marketing conference recently with a client, one of the UK's top marketing gurus came to our stand and asked what made Commsbox choose to take on a giant in the industry, in a market that isn't even that developed yet.

It's a great question.   The fact that this even seemed possible to an SME, marks them out as true entrepreneurs, characterised by their unbridled passion for what they do, and an almost childlike belief that they can succeed.  Entrepreneurs ignore obstacles and get on with what they can do rather than worry about what they can't. Entrepreneurs do what they do and believe that the money will follow.

But it's still a great question.  I asked Pete, founder of Commsbox.  He said simply "Because we can".

So now the question was bugging me and I wanted to explore more - starting with "What on earth made Richard Branson take on BA?"  and I think the answer was the same as Pete's - because he could and because he wanted to.  It's a similar David and Goliath story.  It can be done.

Here's a guy who started off life with a student newspaper and now the Virgin group runs over 400 companies.  Asked why he decided to take on the UK's only transatlantic airline flying to the States, when all his knowledge was in the music industry, Richard replied

"My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them ... from the perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to attempt it."

Fortune favours the bold.  But on a more practical level what does makes small companies think they can do it?  And should larger companies be scared?

Well for a start entrepreneurs really do care, about their customers and about their product.   Often they use their own product every day, because it answers a need they had. Famously Bravisimmo was the result of  Sarah Tremellen's own frustrating experiences trying to find pretty bras that accommodated her assets.  The company that started at a living room table is now a multi-million award winning venture.

They go  to work everyday for the love of what they do.  Entreprenuers really are those alarming people who would work on their product if no-one ever bought it, because they believe in it.  They don't believe in failure.  James Dyson took 15 years and over 5000 modifications to make his bagless vacuum cleaner a reality.

Steve Jobs, founder of the world's most valuable brand, was adamant on this point. 

"You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.... Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” Steve Jobs

Sometimes the smaller companies, like the tortoise and the hare, win the race because they are the last man standing, when the larger ones have over-invested. Small companies may have a much greater eye on the purse-strings.  Without a big investment to blow, they have more incentive to manage cash-flow.  I find it somewhat ironic that a small company can have far greater profit in real terms, than a large one that has over-spent.  Always keep an eye on the bottom line.  Debt is expensive. 

Paradoxically SMEs can often offer a price differential over larger companies. They don't have economies of scale, but then they don't have large sales teams, huge marketing budgets and central HQ functions to cover either.  They also just can't afford to waste time, there just isn't enough time to waste.

Whilst big companies talk about being agile, SMEs are busy actually being agile and will often do their damedest to make it happen for customers.  Every development is inspired by real customers, and a dash of genius. Remember that if you are small, you can do things that larger companies are just not agile enough to accommodate.  Smaller companies don't have to aspire to be the same size as the giants their industry.  They can be profitable and successful by finding a niche and more creating personal relationships.

So can small companies take on GIANTS?  Hell yeah.  The bigger question if you are a large established corporation his "How are you going to dodge David's sling?"

If you need help answering either question get in touch.


Caroline is an inspirational thinker and educator working to create a paradigm shift in how people and businesses are able to value and express themselves in a new world of conscious consumption. Her most significant contribution is in new thinking that will create an economic and social framework that values people over profit;  is less individualistic and more collaborative; one that supports equality, love, compassion, freedom, self-expression and self-worth. Caroline believes that businesses and education can play a key role in creating a collective, abundant world, through innovative social and technological approaches. Caroline lectures at the University of Hertfordshire. She has an MSc in Business and Management Studies and post-graduate qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and  Institute of Leadership Management. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.



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