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How to outpace big competition

Accelerate SME


Most start-ups have limited resources, which is a major challenge considering that they must outmaneuver larger and well-equipped companies in an effort to fight for their share of the market. Brute force isn't an option, so you need to get clever. Finesse is the way to go, and when you're talking finesse, you're talking innovation.

So how do you out-innovate companies who are larger than you? It's a difficult task, but it's far from impossible. Here are a few ways you can get ahead of the competition.

1. Speed

Nothing comes without cost, and for big companies, their size costs them their flexibility. Getting something done in a large corporation can be an arduous process. The same processes that protect its interests slow down its performance. While you can't bring to bear the same kind of power they can, you can certainly maneuver better.

When something new pops up, you can bring the full might of your company to bear on it. Larger companies are committed to a large number of projects and cannot simply pull people off something to chase a new idea. You and your start-up can reallocate a significant percentage of your resources to do that.

You can also execute your plans faster than large companies. Instead of spending months or even years running it through various committees and departments, you can bring everyone into a room and talk about it. Get it out there before the competition can get it together, and you'll be recognized as an innovator.

2. Hire wisely

Large companies have a lot of room to breathe. They have plenty of revenue streams and thus can afford a few bad apples, as the bunch is too big to be spoiled by a few. For would-be employees, this is an often overlooked benefit. Because they can afford to make a few mistakes, they don't list as many requirements for their hires.

You, on the other hand, must make every hire count. When a big company makes hiring mistakes, they can afford to fix their error. When you make a hiring mistake, it represents a significant loss of time and money. So you have to make every hire count.

Instead of looking for people who merely fulfill the jobs they're being given, make innovation and creativity criteria for hiring. There are plenty of ways to determine a candidate's innovation potential, from interviewing their former employers to applying tests. Find out what works for your company. You should also stress its importance by including it in the job description as well as the company description. This reminds employees that it's part of how they'll be evaluated.

3. Support innovative effort

If there's anything you must understand as an entrepreneur, it's that ideas are worth nothing if they can't be executed well. Great ideas can be brought down by poor execution and a bad idea executed well can only go so far. 

Your employees may be smart and imaginative, but if they don't have company-wide support, it'll come to nothing. Just like you, they can't do anything alone. Make it clear to anyone in a position of authority in the company that they should do everything to support creative tasks and efforts in the company. Reward people who innovate. This will encourage people to not only celebrate innovation, but to participate as well.

4. Make your office a team environment

Innovation will take more than the support of managers. For your employees to truly be creative, they must have the support of their peers. Make creative thinking a group effort. Every person added to a team can provide it with their unique perspective and thoughts, which often leads to a well-rounded idea. Innovation and experimentation not only makes execution quicker, but it also prepares your employees for future endeavors. 

Innovation is easier said than done. It's not something a singular entrepreneur can do; much like many things in entrepreneurship, it'll require help. Your employees are part of the equation. Simply seeing an opportunity to pivot or experiment isn't enough. If your team isn't on board, the idea can't be executed. If your team doesn't have support from management, they can't help. If they can't work together as a team, it can't be done efficiently. It's a difficult task, but you can outmaneuver big companies if you do things right.

© Zawya BusinessPulse QATAR 2016

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