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Taking On Goliath: How Start-Ups Can Become Major Industry Players

David vs. Goliath analogies are very popular in the world of business. They’re usually invoked to suggest hopeless odds: Small start-ups fruitlessly chipping away at the power of industry-dominating forces.

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David vs Goliath

David vs. Goliath analogies are very popular in the world of business. They’re usually invoked to suggest hopeless odds: small start-ups fruitlessly chipping away at the power of industry-dominating forces.

Popular as they are, these analogies are misguided for one simple reason: David won. With the right offering, the right tactics, and the right people, small businesses can take on major players. At Xero, we’ve done exactly that – launching in the UK, then the US, and then South Africa in the face of stiff competition.

It’s not quite as simple as propelling a rock at your nearest rival, but if you’re starting a new business, you can stake your claim on the market.

Here are three ways that David can take on Goliath, and win. 

1Stay agile

To keep up with the market you have to be willing to change your pace. Competitors will constantly be working on new ways to appeal to customers – be innovative, creative, and if there’s a way to bolster your services, lower your prices, or address your end-user’s pain points, think of it before your rivals do.

Related: What Business Should You Start In Africa?

Goliaths become vulnerable when their dominance turns to complacency: The assumption that a big business’ rule will go unchallenged led to the downfall of Blockbuster, Nokia and countless other businesses that failed to adapt to an era of constant innovation. Davids can never, ever afford to sit still.

As a start-up, you can move quicker than the major players in your market: they have thicker layers of bureaucracy and more internal stakeholders to please than you do. Learn, grow, and adapt to changing conditions – and make sure that, when you get big, you stay agile.

2Take advantage of technology

Successful entrepreneurship is as much a matter of time management as anything else. You and your team can’t focus on growth if you have to focus on processes like accounting, data entry, and HR.

CEOs often have to be all things to all people in the business: They’re often responsible for cutting costs, chasing invoices, taxes, and making sure salaries are paid.

Technology can help resolve this issue: Cloud software can automate some of the more frustrating, day-to-day tasks of running a business. Accounting software, for example, can make it easy to pay and chase invoices with the click of a button. Data entry can be more or less fully automated.

Every process that you automate gives you more time to focus on developing the business – and the sooner you get on board with technology, the better.

Start-ups that are born in the cloud have an easier time of it than legacy players, who often struggle with the transition.

3Focus on customer service

Finally, make sure to keep a strict and unrelenting focus on customer service. An amazing product is nothing unless it’s supported by an amazing team. If your team isn’t resolving enquiries in a timely, friendly and mutually satisfying fashion; if you’re persistently running out of stock; if your customers don’t feel valued, then it doesn’t matter how innovative you are – they won’t come back.

Related: Ready To Launch – Your 5 Steps Checklist Before Launching

You might get some short-term sales out of it, but eventually, other versions of your product will become available – and they’ll be underpinned by brilliant customer service models. Stay ahead of the game when you’re interacting with your end-users and you’ll be rewarded for it.

In fact, this principle can be applied to other aspects of the David vs. Goliath dynamic. Make no mistake: David faces tougher odds and a harder fight. But if you can outpace, outthink, and out manoeuvre your bigger opponents you stand every chance of surviving – and winning.

Darren Upson is the Director of Small Business at Xero, responsible for growing the Xero subscriber base throughout Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). Following a decade in marketing leadership positions within ERP software vendors, most recently at NetSuite, Darren moved to Xero in April 2015, and has subsequently helped grow the UK & EMEA business from 83,000 subscribers to over 220,000. Xero is the multi award winning global leader in online accounting software with more than 1 million paying subscribers around the world.

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Compete to Win

How You Can Over-Deliver To Gain The Advantage

Go over and above for the people you serve, and you will enjoy the benefits of an abundant relationship.

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Wise, established entrepreneurs know that over-delivering value — which simply means going above and beyond for the people we serve to deliver more satisfaction for our service and thus exceed expectations — is crucial to a business’s survival, growth and future. It represents the core of a company’s foundation. And without a solid foundation, a business is always vulnerable to a person or company that does over-deliver.

To ensure you don’t ever forget the importance of over-delivering value, here are three ways it will give you and your company a distinct competitive advantage:

1. Creates abundance

Success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. When you over-deliver value, people may be sceptical at first, thinking that you are expecting something in return, but when you are consistent and genuine with your intentions, they begin to trust and appreciate that you are just thinking of them.

Related: Your Questions Answered With Alan Knott-Craig

You never know the value of the value you are delivering. But I’ve learnt that if you are consistently delivering greater value to people, your value becomes more and more aligned with the immediate needs of the people and companies you are serving — and abundance in the relationship is created. This is what over-delivering value is all about.

2. Earns respect

Entrepreneurs who take the time to over-deliver value are the ones who earn respect. Typically early-stage entrepreneurs tend to find ways to be the recipient of someone else’s value in a search for momentum.

You never know which transactional seed is going to grow, but when adding value to others, this type of seed is never forgotten.

For example, every quarter, I deliver a white paper to clients with the intention to challenge their thinking. My goal is for them to know that regardless of whether I am conducting business with them or not, I am thinking of them and thus strengthening our long-term relationship. And since my white papers focus on predicting future leadership trends and business strategies, when a related topic arises in one of their strategy meetings, they don’t hesitate to call me to discuss an opportunity for us to engage.

3. Enables distinction

Entrepreneurs who add value to others create and sustain a distinction in the minds and hearts of those they are serving. After all, most people are simply doing what they’re told to do inside the box they are given. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to do that.

Related: 7 Steps To Optimise Your Cycle Of Customer Service

We are the originators, the innovators and the opportunity seekers. We live our lives constantly in search of ways to add value to make things better. We disrupt the status quo. We are not in the business of fixing the old ways of doing things. We create new ways of doing things. If entrepreneurs are technically the experts at adding value through our products, services and brands, why can’t we add value through the people we depend upon most for our success?

Over-delivering value is the key not only to being a successful entrepreneur but also to the entrepreneurial mindset we must continually cultivate in ourselves and others. No one is successful alone. We must see the value in over-delivering value by being other-directed and connecting dots of opportunity with focus and purpose to become smarter and wiser, while making ourselves invaluable to the people and businesses we serve.

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How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos

One wrong move and Netflix could have been nothing more than a footnote in the history of entertainment. But by staying ahead of the curve and embracing disruption, the company is threatening some very entrenched competitors.

GG van Rooyen

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Attendees of the annual Cannes Film Festival are typically not afraid to be vocal in their dislike of a new film — booing and hissing are both surprisingly common — but the recent film Okja possibly set some sort of record. The crowd was booing and jeering before the film had even properly begun. In fact, all it took was the name of the studio behind the film: Netflix.

Why the animosity? Netflix is disrupting the film industry, and the traditionalists aren’t happy. After debuting at Cannes, Okja wasn’t released in cinemas. No, instead it was released right to Netflix, free to stream as long as you have an account.

Of course, few would have guessed a few years ago that Netflix would ever get into the business of making its own television shows and movies. According to industry lore, entrepreneur Reed Hastings launched Netflix because he was annoyed with the exorbitant late fees of video/DVD store Blockbuster.

Instead of having to return a movie once you’ve watched it, he conceived of a business that would ship DVDs right to your door through the mail.

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

It was a clever idea, but not one that seemed terribly disruptive. The whole process could be a bit of a hassle, and it required you to schedule your entertainment well ahead of time. Blockbuster even had a chance to buy Netflix, but decided that it wasn’t worth it.

The rise of streaming

Even as Netflix was hitting its stride in the early-2000s, the tide was already turning. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Internet was going to be an incredibly disruptive force, but many companies failed to notice. Or, if they did notice, they failed to take adequate action.

By 2007, the potential of streaming TV shows, films, music and books online was clear, but the DVD business was still doing well. However, Netflix decided to prepare for the future (and disrupt its own operations) by launching a streaming service. It did this by going to the traditional movie studios and television networks, and asking to licence their old content.

In the view of these studios and networks, old pieces of entertainment had run their course, so they were pleased with the new revenue stream.

This brings us back to Okja. Netflix has been creating its own content for the last few years because it realised that studios and networks would eventually catch on. At some point, they would understand that they were giving Netflix the ammunition needed to disrupt the industry. Why have Netflix stream your content if you could create your own streaming service?

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Hastings said of one of the most popular American cable channels back in 2013.

In a mere 20 years, Netflix has gone from a low-tech operation that sends DVDs through the mail to one that not only streams content online, but is also producing its own content — content from some of the most respected actors, producers and directors in the world. All of this is costing Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars, and it remains to be seen if this strategy will ultimately pay off, but betting against Netflix is risky.

Related: How To Make Money Investing, According To Ashton Kutcher

Netflix has shown itself to be uniquely capable in drastically shifting its business model. Here is how Hastings explains it: “Short-term optimisation about being efficient is the death of long-term success and innovation. Building Netflix, we created a company that tolerated some short-term chaos, and we manage right at the edge of chaos. The value of that is keeping and stimulating the amazing thinkers, so when the market shifts, like DVD to streaming, or licence to original content, we have in Netflix all kinds of original thinkers, and that is the long-term optimisation that all of us in organisations want.”

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SME Leaders: How You Can Manage Growth

Fresh growth is all around us this Spring – find out how you can powerfully manage growth as you provide leadership to your SME.

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In the transition from start-up to scale-up, a critical factor for a growing business is the quality and strength of its leadership team.

Learning to trust and empower staff is a crucial step for SME leaders who wants to grow their business upwards.

As a business grows, one of the biggest challenges for the business founder and leader is the hand-over of an idea from the founder to the people who work there, The brand moves from being one person’s idea to being the professional focus of a whole group of people.

Without effective leadership, small businesses will be held back, more than three-quarters of SMEs provide no leadership development for their staff. What does this mean for you?

Related: We Went up Against A Highly Regulated, Entrenched Industry. Here Are 4 Tips For Getting Your Foot In The Door

If you lead your business with vision and clarity, you set yourself apart from your competition. Here’s how.

Lead the pack

A growing business creates more work than a leader can handle alone.

As the team grows, founders often react by micromanaging the details of their business. In trying to take on everyone else’s job, the founder often leaves the most critical position vacant: strategist and vision-setting.

Learn to trust and empower others in the organisation and you will find you have room to innovate, which is critical for business growth.

Related: What I Learned About Dating That Will Transform Any Business

Steady the ship

An effective leader will also engage others in the business to embrace and adapt to change as growth continues.

  1. Vision: First, plot the course for where the business should go in the short term, and the long term.
  2. Change: Understand what needs to be put in place to grow the business. You might need to source better business operating systems to streamline this growth, or change a few internal business processes, or rethink how you calculate your hourly rates.
  3. People: Growth equals change, and change equals pain, so if you want growth, budget for pain. Understand that you will need to guide and coach the staff into changing their mindset and adapting to these growth changes.

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