As an entrepreneur or small business owner, there are many things you worry about. But one of the scariest has to be the possibility that a competitor — a big one — will come along and disrupt your market. It’s the age-old tale of David and Goliath, except the giant wins pretty much every time in the real world.

Not only do you have to compete in terms of marketing and exposure, but you also have to compete on levels that are just not possible unless you have a multi-billion-dollar force behind you.

Let’s stick with a simple example. You have a new product, a good product, that is infinitely better than anything your competition could ever come up with. But that factor alone doesn’t make something sell. A competitor sees this — and any success you might have had — and duplicates your idea. By all rights, their product is the lesser of the two. However, because they have the capital and the driving force, their product becomes popular and takes the spotlight, drowning yours out.

This isn’t a hypothetical scenario, either. It happens all the time.

It’s not the only way big business can beat you out, though, which makes things even worse. How could you ever expect to compete with something like that?

Believe it or not, there are ways, and we’re going to take some time to discuss them now.

How You Can Compete with Big Business

If you know how, you can compete with big business, and it’s actually not as difficult as you might think. The biggest thing you’ll need to know is that you must remain consistent in all your efforts.

1. You Can Be Faster

Big business has you on size and capital. That doesn’t mean bigger is always better.

What they don’t have you beat on is speed. This is because they have a hierarchy they must follow, a bureaucracy which slows things down considerably. Not just for planning and deployment, but for everything.

Most importantly, their service across the board will always be slower.

There are so many tools you can use to speed up your processes, allowing you to work much faster than big business for just about everything. Your customer support has the propensity to be faster and more reliable. Your service has the propensity to be better and more personable. You also have the opportunity to adopt new strategies and ideas much faster, too.

Use this to your advantage, and incorporate speed into everything you do.

2. Persistence Is Key

What kind of people are the best at sales? Are they good talkers? Are they quick thinkers? Do they have a ridiculously high IQ? While some of these traits may be true — and some of them may even go into making an awesome salesperson — it’s not what contributes most to success.

A door-to-door salesman, car salesman or commission rep is always successful because they are persistent and stubborn. They do not take “no” for an answer. It’s also why most people don’t like dealing with salesmen — they’re usually likened to sharks.

As a small business, you must come to grips with hearing the word “no” regularly. Don’t take it to heart, and don’t let it influence your work.

Poaching employees from bigger companies is going to be tough. Finding loyal customers who are willing to stand by your products over the competition, takes time and effort. Turning your revenue into a true profit also takes time and lots of investing.

Point being, you’ll need to be patient and persistent to get the success you want.

3. You Can Innovate

5 Ways Startups Can Compete With Big Businesses

Innovation is simply defined as the act of coming up with something new — whether it’s an idea, method or product. People love reliable, but they also love fresh ideas. Why do you think the mobile app and social space is so lucrative for those who succeed? There are billions of apps and thousands of social networks. It’s tough to push through all the noise, and innovation alone will never guarantee success. But those who truly find a new way of doing things and offer something totally different from the competition — that’s still useful, mind you — will see the most success.

Take pride in the fact that you can innovate more often and deploy new ideas much faster. In big business, they have to float ideas up the chain of command. If they are incorporated, they also have to run new ideas by investors. That’s just sharing an idea. Now, imagine putting it into action. That takes even longer!

4. Put Your Ear to the Ground [Listen]

In big business, it’s just not possible for the entire chain to be in tune with their audience and customers. This is why you see a lot of big companies and corporations making moves that are downright confusing.

By 2016, 89% of companies expected to compete on the basis of customer experience first and foremost. That number only continues to grow because — and social media is a huge culprit — people expect to hear from a customer service team much faster. They use a variety of channels to reach out when they have a problem because they want to be heard.

As a smaller business, you are — and will always be — closer to your clientele. Use that, and listen to what they want or what they have to share. Come up with a business ethos that puts the customer first and really obsesses over them. This does not mean you always have to give them every single thing they want. It simply means listen to them.

If they don’t like an upgrade or new feature, then roll it back. If there’s a problem with your product or service, fix it — and fast. If they suggest a new idea and it would enrich your business, implement it.

These are all things that no big business would ever be able to keep up with — at least not without wasting a great deal of time first.

5. Bring in the Best Talent

In sports, major league teams will send talent scouts to watch minor league and college players. Essentially, they help decide which new players join the big leagues.

In big business, it kind of works the same way, except it takes forever to rise up in the ranks, even if you are the smartest and most talented person on the planet. Think of all that talent that goes to waste, lost in the noise.

That doesn’t — and won’t — happen with your small business. You can streamline the hiring process and really work with some of the best talent.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking they have to be well-known superstars or rock stars to be good, either. Even someone who just started working for you — even if they have never been in the same business before — can be great if they have the right skill-set.

You have the propensity to bring in the best talent, and more often. Do it.

You can also groom existing employees to be better and more efficient at what they do. Think of it as a mentorship, which is always worth the investment.

Think you can’t compete with big business? It might take some effort, but there are many ways you can compete with — and pull ahead of — a company that’s bigger than you. Just remember these tips, and you’re on your way.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a marketing specialist, freelance writer and blogger. Her career blog, Punched Clocks, is all about creating a career you love and are happy in. Subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on social media for more tips on growing your career and your business.


Alecia Stringer · April 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Yes I see winning in different places, just because I am persistent. Keep working all these tips to maximize your business. Thanks for the tips.

nickskillicorn · April 19, 2017 at 2:21 am

Hi Sarah, I’m the author of one of the sites you are quoting (, and you misquoted us. You said that innovation is simply doing something new. That is completely wrong. You need to do something new that adds value to both the customer and the company. Otherwise you are just doing something new but it is likely to fail.

    Lawrence Tam · April 30, 2017 at 11:06 am

    That’s a good point… the act of just creating isn’t a value add.

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