Most Real Business readers will understand the urge to go it alone, and build a business from the kitchen table up. And some industries offer a relatively level playing field, on which small businesses can realistically compete with large.But what if your background and skillset doesn’t offer a cosy fit for entrepreneurship? What if you’re not a lorry driver, a restaurateur or a designer? What if you are, for example, an engineer, and your background is in one of the many industries that favour economies of scale, and encourage a few dominant players? The company I started three years ago, Mhub, develops video management software for enterprises, and our key competitors are some of the biggest names in IT. Nonetheless, we’ve managed to attract some of the world’s biggest brands as customers. Here are my top tips for corporate Davids seeking to take on their industry’s Goliaths. 1. Choose your niche, and stick to it By their very nature, small players are niche players. But too many take on work that is behind their capabilities or outside of their core expertise. While it can be hard to turn down business (particularly in the company’s early stages), taking on unsuitable work hampers the development of brand and reputation, as well as the development of the team’s expertise. Having a niche shouldn’t mean being inflexible, but it is important to figure the ground you can win on, and stick to it. 2. Keep your ear to the ground Indeed, one of the real advantages that a small business enjoys over the large is its ability to respond rapidly to changes in the market. That’s why disruption seldom starts with a large corporation. A big company may be aware of market changes, but anyone who has ever attended a ‘meeting to discuss the minutes of yesterday’s meeting’ will understand that large companies are not always in the best position to respond! Unencumbered by this corporate baggage, a small business can react immediately to changes in customer attitudes, advances in technology and the emergence of new opportunities. 3. Be social Keeping your ear to the ground doesn’t just mean reading a news website every day. Nowadays social media offers an extremely powerful way to extend and nurture your network of business contacts. And you shouldn’t limit yourself to text updates either – images and short video messages can help you stand out from the crowd when building your social profile. That makes it much more likely that your face will be remembered when it comes to doing the really important ‘social networking’ – face-to-face, where relationships and contacts are turned into deals.
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