If you were to sit down and write a list of all the advantages that your biggest, best competitor has over you, what would be on that list? How long would it be? Chances are if you are still starting out (with the first 5 years or so of inception for most businesses not in Silicon Valley), the list is long, and it contains a litany of budget and resource limitations. I know ours is and does. So, how do you address those limitations while at the same time start chipping away at them so that they cease to be limitations in the future?
Whenever someone talks about spinning a negative as a positive, I think about Michael Scott replying “I work too hard, I care too much and sometimes I can be too invested in my job” when asked what his greatest weakness is. As ridiculous as this looked on the episode, is it really any worse than answering “Personal attention.” to the question “How are you planning to overcome the fact that your competitors are larger and more efficient than you?” Is this answer any less B.S. than Mr. Scott’s? We need to come up with a better (and specific) way to work with limitations without resorting to rhetoric.
The trick to working around your business’s limitations is to (1) acknowledge them and (2) figure out a way to overcome them while you’re working to eliminate them. So take your list from earlier, write “Because we” in front of it, write “we” after it, and write the things that you can do only because you have that constraint. An example “Because we are small and don’t have the resources to purchase in volume and hold the inventory, we’re going to do a Kickstarter like preorder system, limit our exposure, stay small, and increase the exclusivity of our product.” This is exactly what <a href=”http://weargustin.com/”]]>Gustin did with their jeans, and only a small, innovative company could ever get away with it. Want the Greensboro jeans? You’ll either need to hunt for a pair on Ebay or hope that they do another run because you can’t get them anymore. A perfect, no B.S. spin to the volume problem that was as creative as it was crucial to their survival in the cutthroat fashion space.</p>
It’s about what you can do, not what you can’t
Successful businesses we know try to keep the word can’t out of their vocabulary. So it’s not “I can’t compete on price.”, it’s “I can compete on value by doing (x).” Get specific. Get innovative. You’re going to have plenty of people to tell you what you can’t do and all the ways that you could potentially fail. When you do it to yourself, you’ve already lost. Sometimes a healthy dose of optimism and ingenuity is all you need to overcome the many challenges you’ll face while working for the best boss you’re ever going to have.