4 Business Growth Strategies for Beating Your Top Competitors
In 1999, Carey Smith founded the HVLS Fan Company in Lexington, Kentucky with six employees and a new idea. Why not, he reasoned, build industrial ceiling fans with airfoil blades powered by low-speed, energy-efficient motors?
The company was small. The fans, up to 24 feet in diameter, were not. After one customer after another called asking about those “big ass fans,” Smith hopped on the bandwagon, and the “Big Ass Fans” company was born. Using his creative side and CEO business sense to listen to his customers and using business growth strategies to change the way his company was seen.
Now in its third iteration as Big Ass Solutions, the company is a $150-million global manufacturer with big salaries, big plants, and big fans. Smith, formerly recognized as Chief Big Ass, pilots an award-winning made-in-America enterprise with a 90 percent retention rate.
Conventional wisdom dictates that Forbes 500 companies are too big, have too gilded a reputation and too fat a budget, to fail. They hobnob with all the bigwig lobbyists on Capitol Hill and cover all their tracks.
But conventional wisdom – better known as “fearmongering” – is wrong. Big firms are easy to face mano a mano. All the small business owner has to do is use the following business growth strategies:
1. Be faster. No company can simultaneously be citius, altius, fortius: bigger, faster, stronger. Big corporations are like whale sharks: their bodies outgrew their brains. Your small business is like a dolphin: nimble, spry, and unfettered by bureaucracy. You can respond to market forces.
Consider the example of ChocEdge, a boutique 3D printing company that will make most anything you want out of chocolate. Unlike larger firms who must purchase and sell en masse, ChocEdge, like other small companies, can perform custom work for cheap. Now, will that be milk or dark?
2. Be more creative. Where would your small business be today if you hadn’t busted into the market, shattering paradigms and spewing creativity like a bull in a china shop? You can leverage that same creative verve as ammunition against your bigger competitors.
Big Ass Solutions, for instance, operates a sub-group of five engineers called “The Kitchen,” where creative engineers play mental badminton with half-baked ideas. The team currently holds more than 100 patents.
3. Be more flexible. As a $10 million business competing with a $100 million company, you know you can’t match their resources. Then again, you don’t have a chain of command as long as a football field. You can go with the flow.
That’s what Energy Management Collaborative (EMC) did. The company, a turnkey lighting solutions provider based in Minnesota, didn’t flounder when the Great Recession hit. Businesses were desperate for a way to slash energy costs, and EMC quickly provided lighting solutions. Being small, EMC could shift its momentum to align with market demands.
4. Be up-front with the client. Who says being smaller is a disadvantage? “Though she be but little, she is fierce,” said Shakespeare. Ask your clients how many of your big, portly competitors can provide access to their CEOs? You can sell direct. You can customize products. You can market yourself, the owner, as a value-added resource.
Just remember: You are part of a brotherhood. Or sisterhood. Young, small businesses have accounted for nearly 90 percent of domestic job growth in the last few years. As a small business owner, you share in that success. So don’t claim to be something you’re not. Use what you have: the ability to out-think, out-maneuver and outwit – if not out-sell – the bigger competition.
There is, however, a caveat. The ability to out-think and out-maneuver isn’t something you can swipe off the shelf. It’s a skill and a rare one at that.
That’s where Catapult Groups comes in. We’re a small business and proud. Our members are CEOs and entrepreneurs and business owners who meet in monthly peer-to-peer workshop groups. We’re in the business of out-thinking and out-maneuvering, so to speak.