How to take on the big boys? The role innovation plays…

Ever wondered how a small start-up can take on a big, established company and come out a winner?

Wonder no more. Gerard J. Tellis Marshall School of Business, California, and Peter N. Golder, from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration of Dartmouth College tell the secrets in their book “Will and Vision – How Latecomers Grow to Dominate Markets”. They looked at 66 markets, and what they found could be very interesting to entrepreneurs looking to take on the big boys.

You might have heard that being first to market is the key to success. That if you are second with your idea, don’t bother. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, on average 64% of market pioneers fail. So, two thirds of those first to market don’t get anywhere. As for the rest, they control only 6% of market share. In short, market pioneers are rarely market leaders. So, the first lesson, for you the budding entrepreneur, is that don’t be disheartened if you see somebody has already launched the idea you have been planning to start. Just because they are first to market does not ensure lasting success. In fact, it is likely to help you, because someone else has created the market and made all the mistakes already.

So how can you get market leadership? These professors identify five traits for market leadership: vision, persistence, innovation, commitment and asset leverage. Let’s take them one by one:

Your vision must be focused on the mass market rather than niche segments. Think Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber and many others. The mass market is much larger which in turn allows for lower costs and massive sales volumes.

You need to persist against all odds. Just this weekend I met someone running his own successful security company, now in its twelfth year. In his words, “I was an overnight success in 6 years”.

What if things are going nowhere despite all efforts? Therein lies, the third point, the need for relentless innovation! The entrepreneur must be always alert to what the market and customers are saying, and if needed, quickly change course to avoid wasting important time and resources on a business model that is not working.

The fourth point is commitment. As the wise Yoda says, “Do or do not – there is no try. “

Finally, make the most of what you currently have – your social networks, skills and ability to engage others to join your journey. Use them and build them.

There is lot about business you cannot control. But these are things you can. It may come sooner or later but if you work at it then anything is possible!

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