Competition is healthy and makes for a more innovative market, which is essential for the discerning consumer in a globalised world. For startups however, the issue is how you can survive as a small fish with whales in a big sea. Competition in a business context is either direct or indirect for any startup or established company. Even if you have a product or business service that is completely niche or unique, it is impossible not to face some stiff competition.

Most large companies have all the resources they need to compete with smaller companies that want a piece of the pie. You can’t possibly take on big giants. You can, but it will take some real effort to survive and grow. Some investors won’t even throw money at startups that are trying to take on a giant. The chances of getting crushed are extremely high. You can easily be swallowed. But if you survive it, you can confidently work on attracting a significant section the huge market. This is what you should do if a large competitor makes it difficult to grow you small business.

1. You can’t compete on resources. You can’t take on a bully! Don’t start a business thinking you can take on big company and ultimately win. It won’t happen. Even if you can, it take a lot of resources and a unique offering that significantly improves or enhances what the competition is offering. What you should be doing is working on a product or service that can’t be ignored.

You should be so good at what you do that prospective customers will find it hard to ignore you. The least they could possibly do is give your product a try. If people are trying out your product, it’s a good thing. Find out what works for them and what frustrates them in process and constantly work on improving it. It’s one of the effective ways to win in the midst of similar products that could possibly crush you.

2. There is enough to share if you do it right. You may not have the required resources to stay long enough in business but if you do it right, you will attract the right customers and survive. Before DuckDuckGo (recently popular search engine), there was Google but they thought they could provide something different. Their core selling point is privacy. And so far it’s working for them. They may not be a search giant but that they selling something unique to attract users who care a lot about search privacy.

3. Focus on your core competence. Your best shot at surviving is an insane focus on your core competence. There has to be something you alone can do better. People buy products not just because of good price but because of other intangible factors. Zappos is winning because of awesome customer service. You may not have thousands or millions of customers but you can focus on creating the simplest and best product in the market. What is the one thing you have set out to do as a business? Don’t try to do everything right from the beginning.  Just deliver on your promise and make the experience stick.

You will be tempted to add more features in the hope of making your product better. But in the end, you  could complicate it. Don’t pursue  too many things at once. You will lose sight of your core competence if you do too many things simultaneously. People like simplicity. Google made search ridiculously simple when Yahoo was serving news, weather, finance etc. They gave you just a simple search bar and it works. Of course they do other things, but search has not been compromised.

4. Customer service can be your killer strength. Most large companies have trouble delivering happiness to their customers. They put you on hold for too long. The don’t respond to your complaints. You can’t even get to talk to somebody when you need them to respond to an emergency. And people wish there was a real alternative that don’t suck. That’s where you come in. Companies are losing customers because of bad customer service. Customer service should be your killer asset. Don’t make it difficult to contact your business. And respond in time.

5. Be agile! Yes you can! Your business process can get complicated and bureaucratic as you grow. Simplicity gets compromised and everything takes longer than usual. Agility is a great thing. Don’t take that for granted. Big companies don’t have that. Innovation or change takes longer than planned. Some of them miss out on industry trends that could have increased sales. Most startups don’t have high levels of different management to make a decision on how best to respond to industry trends or make a simple decision. Take advantage of your agility and provide something unique for the ever-changing business landscape.


  1. Hi Thomas,

    I couldn’t agree more with the ‘killer customer service’.

    Good customer service is so rare these days when you DO actually receive a positive, simple experience it feel usually strange. That’s because it’s so rare!

    I aim to provide that type of experience for my customers and then they know I’m always there if they have any problem and it’s a great way to build trust.


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