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Monday, July 28, 2014

Small business owners need to capitalize on their advantages

By Ken Lerman

No question: Market share leaders and big business competitors can significantly hurt you.

There are, however, several comparative advantages little guys have over big guys. As a business owner, make certain you are pressing these “little guy” advantages.

•  You can move on business opportunities much quicker than the big guys.

It takes a long time for big guys to get plans developed, politically agreed to and approved. Large chains of management command, office politics and communication hurdles have to be overcome internally before they can hit the marketplace. Kill these serpents in your business or they will poison and strangle it.

•  Your close proximity to key opportunities brings your business greater flexibility.

You, as the little guy business owner, probably helped shape the sales and marketing plan. You can and should take “hands-on” responsibility for the plan’s implementation and when warranted, its execution. In the heat of the battle, you can adjust or fix business strategy and tactics. Big guys can’t. Moreover, big guy managers usually distance themselves from market implementation, eliminating the potential risk of being blamed for the plan’s personal failures, shortfalls and missteps.

•  Kick ’em in the knee caps, steal some market share (at least for awhile), then get the dickens out of there.

Don’t tell Goliath you’re coming, don’t threaten him, just wreak havoc and be prepared to retreat, run and hide.

In 1985, Jolt Cola provocatively introduced its new brand with the slogan, “All the sugar and twice the caffeine” – leaving consumers to assume it was positioned against Coca-Cola. For a season they did well – very well.

No, Coca-Cola did not buy them. That is corporate folklore. In 2009, as Wet Planet Beverages, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Perhaps it should have run and sold following its early victories.

•  Based on the size and scale, the profit impact of a successful business program brings greater financial and emotional reward to the little guy.

And if you’re the owner, most of the reward goes into your pocket. Over time, managers for the big guys don’t get the full reward they might deserve and may not even get a thank you from senior management. This happens often in typical corporate life and it is demoralizing to the performance of good motivated talent.

•  Finally – be gutsy.

Take up a position versus the leader. Compare yourself openly to them. Steal their luster, their brand name and image – and associate it with yours. If they smack you, they’ll look like a big bully picking on a little guy. If they don’t, you might be able to knock them around even more.

Years ago, Avis touted itself, again in a provocative marketing strategy, as No. 2 in “rent-a-cars” and claimed, “We try harder” (than Hertz?)

When developing market strategy in 1985 for the Taco Tico regional restaurant chain, we introduced our own attractively boxed “kids meals” to draw Saturday morning and afternoon business. At that time, only McDonald’s had a boxed kids meal. In our TV and radio commercials, six-year old kids announced: “We’re tired of little burgers and fries. From now on it’s tacos and Crustos for us!” Weekend business gains were huge.

Have a great fight!

Ken Lerman is a business growth consultant in Wichita. Contact him at info@kenlerman.com or through his website, www.kenlerman.com.

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