In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss his book, Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry, in which Stephen discusses how we can not only survive, but thrive against our competitors. Today we will go over four of the most important strategies.
Stephen got his MBA and started his career journey working at large tech companies. As he reached a certain place in his life, he wanted to do something different. He developed a growing lack of belief in what he was currently doing and seeing around him, so he walked away from the situation. A week later, his friend asked for help with public relations and became Stephen’s first consulting client. He has been consulting ever since.
During this time, Stephen went out to coffee with a mentor who immediately said, “What is wrong with you? Why haven’t you written your book yet?” This helped launch Stephen into writing his first book, Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry which came out in 2011.
In his book, Stephen explains that while it’s inconvenient to be a small business, it can also be a blessing. Small businesses can be faster and more nimble than giants or big companies who are too slow and hidebound to make painful but necessary changes. Stephen interviewed more than 70 “giant-killers” for his book and came up with 10 powerful strategies to help small businesses thrive among their big competition. Here are four of the most important ones.
4 Strategies from Killing Giants
“‘Thin Ice’ is one of my favorite chapters because it discusses how smart, nimble companies outmaneuver the giants they face in their world,” Stephen said. “‘Thin Ice’ talked about luring the giant out over the ‘thin ice’ of your own creations, surviving and thriving in a place where they cannot.”
Since small companies have fewer employees and simpler systems and processes, they can get to places larger companies may not be able to get to. As small companies, we should use this to our advantage. We should find areas of “thin ice” where we can excel, but our large competitors cannot. This might mean looking for smaller and more targeted niches or leveraging business tectonic shifts faster than they can. Since big companies typically cater to thousands of people, it is harder for them to reach smaller niche groups; whereas smaller companies can better effectively target more specific groups of people.
Stephen explained that as we find places of “thin ice”, we find ways to marginalize and isolate big companies in a corner while carving out a place in the world where we can survive.
Seize the Microphone
“In the absence of a spokesperson, be the spokesperson. Stand up and speak for the industry,” Stephen said.
We can create a category out of nothing, and once we create that category, we should seize the microphone. While the big companies compete with each other, can we find a new category we can take over? While they argue with each other, can we step in and speak to the customers? If we try to compete in the exact same industry with the exact same market as the big companies, most likely we will lose. However, if we can seize the microphone in a new category, we can win.
For example, GoDaddy appeared out of nowhere in a Superbowl ad. They marketed their services which help people buy a domain name for themselves in a simple way. They seized the microphone, told their customers to come to them in this new specific category, and now they’re bigger than their competitors. If we can stand up and speak for our unique industry, we can be heard over our competitors.
Winning in the Last Three Feet
“You don’t have to win everywhere; you have to win somewhere,” Stephen said. Stephen explained that we should focus on winning in the last three feet. He asked, “How can you steal their attention and eyeballs and money and foot traffic? How can you get in there at the last second?”
When we win, we should win at the last moment so we can come out of nowhere, out of thin air at the last moment, and steal the show when our competitors are least expecting it. This is when they will be unprepared to fight back.
As we discussed before, smaller companies are often smarter, faster, and more nimble than our giant competitors. One of our biggest advantages over our competition is our speed. When we see business tectonic shifts changing the market, we can adapt faster than bigger companies to beat them. But how can we be faster? What is it that actually gives us the advantage of speed? Our decision-making skills.
“[We] don’t just make decisions faster; [we] make decisions better,” Stephen said. “The reason we can make better decisions is because we’ve stripped all the fat out of the decision-making process.”
One of the entrepreneurs Stephen interviewed for his book told him, “Anytime I form a company, I get everyone together in the room.” Since he ran a smaller business, he had the ability to get together with his entire team to discuss ideas. He didn’t have to send an idea up or down the chain of command to get it approved or rejected. He could have an open discussion about the idea and come to a conclusion immediately, not within a month or two.
Stephen explained that better decision-making requires a debate on evidence (facts not feelings), a decisive nature, and complete alignment behind that decision. This becomes much easier when we can speak directly with our team and make a quick decision as a small company.
“If you can harness those forces then speed becomes a weapon,” Stephen said. “You can’t just take your to-do list, do it in half the time, and congratulate yourself that you’re doing a good job because you’re going to cut corners; you’re going to make mistakes. That’s not what speed-based culture is.”
Small companies don’t just make decisions faster; they make stronger decisions faster.
Thank you so much Stephen for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
- Smaller companies that are smart and nimble can outmaneuver the giant competitors they face in their industry.
- As we find places of “thin ice” where we excel, we find ways to marginalize and isolate big companies while carving out a place in the world where we can survive.
- In the absence of a spokesperson, we need to be the spokesperson. We should stand up and speak for the industry or category we create.
- We don’t have to win everywhere; we have to win somewhere. We should win in the “last three feet” to steal the show when our competitors aren’t expecting it.
- Beating our larger competitors down doesn’t just mean making faster decisions; it means making better decisions.
Connect with Stephen
To learn more about or connect with Stephen:
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Visit his website at StephenDenny.com
- Check out his book, Killing Giants, at PorchlightBooks.com