David vs Goliath - small business innovation

Innovation has the power to make even the smallest business grow, but can they compete with the big corporations out there?

It's not a simple question to answer. But one way to think about it is to remember that many of today's big companies started out as small enterprises. Visionaries founded these companies and created winning formulas. The rest, as they say, is history.

Entrepreneurs have a lot more opportunities than they did in the past. With some laptop time and a few online tools, an entrepreneur can get their company off the ground. They can even market to millions of social media followers and take advantage of all these connections thanks to the internet.

Despite this, innovation remains the key to success. Companies are successful when they offer their clients something new, exciting, and intriguing—whether it be an improved product or a fantastic customer service. Even though innovation is the engine that drives businesses to success, many new companies struggle with how to innovate faster and better compared to their competitors—so how can small companies out-innovative big corporations?

You might feel like you're competing against giants. But here are seven ways to give your smaller business a fighting chance in the game of innovation;

Quicker to execute

Small businesses have a huge advantage over big companies: they can move at a faster, more agile pace. The moment you come up with an idea, you can begin to conduct research and development to figure out if it's marketable. If not, you can adjust your plan immediately.

With the rise of the internet, startups have gained the power to go global from day one. A startup can operate with a small team of friends and advisors from around the world, no matter their location or time zone. Without the need for meetings, approvals, or complex paper work, a startup can launch an idea in days instead of months or years — innovating at a rate that far outpaces larger companies.

In this new era, smaller businesses can establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with by being an entrepreneurial David to their traditional Goliath.

Smaller, more engaged workforce

Small teams have an advantage over large ones: they're much more cohesive. When you only have a dozen or so team members, it's easy for everyone to feel connected, which leads to increased productivity and stronger relationships between colleagues.

Smaller companies have an innate ability to pull together and throw themselves into achieving a shared goal. It’s this sense of community that makes employees feel so valued by their leaders, and it encourages them to want to do well for the sake of the company, even if they aren’t guaranteed a monetary reward in return.

Adapting to trends quicker

Innovating often requires making big changes to a business’s workflow and processes. This could mean that companies will have to rethink how they collaborate, communicate, market, and sell in order to achieve their goals. Innovation is all about adjusting your mindset and adapting to changing circumstances.

While larger companies are bogged down by costly and time-consuming procedures and regulations, small companies are flexible and can rapidly adjust to new business trends. These businesses always have room to update, improve, and shift their strategies as needed — they don't have layers of bureaucracy slowing them down.

Stronger desire to innovate

Big brands that have conquered their respective industries are often afraid of innovation — they're worried about alienating customers, and they're terrified of a potential failure.

While established businesses have little reason to innovate, small companies can develop and adopt new technologies and ideas that challenge the status quo. With the freedom to experiment and pivot where necessary — and an understanding that there is always room for improvement — small companies can offer products and services that challenge the boundaries of industry norms.

Creativity is one of the most important factors that can make or break a small business. Large companies might have large teams of employees working on the same project, but small companies typically have fewer employees working on individual tasks. This creates unique opportunities for creativity to shine through, as individuals have to think outside the box and spot valuable opportunities to get creative.

Innovative thinking can stimulate company-wide growth

Innovation can transform your company’s entire trajectory. The right idea at the right time can make your company skyrocket. You may bring a product to market that consumers don’t know they need but quickly find themselves addicted too.

Being able to add more innovation into the mix will have a great impact on the bottom line. It's a virtuous cycle: as more money is brought in, business growth will increase, along with better marketing efforts and stronger product launches. More income means a bigger innovation pot, not to mention upgraded equipment and facilities.

This mindset is a useful tool for startups aiming to encourage innovative behaviour. Every person in the company — from the CEO to the intern — should be able to pitch in and contribute in some way, even if it's just as simple as putting forward a good idea.

In the corporate world, everyone is just a cog in a vast machine and pay is typically stratified by position. Based on that logic, the lower your position, the less lucrative your salary is (and vice versa).

Less to lose

If a global brand has a disruptive idea that will consume their entire workforce and mean a change in direction, acting on it is a much bigger risk. Larger companies' scale is a double-edged sword. They have the resources to make massive bets, but if those bets fail, they suffer proportionally larger consequences than smaller companies with fewer customers.

Rising tides may lift all boats, but sinking ships risk taking down the boats around them, too.

Small businesses have a distinct advantage over larger corporations: they don’t have as many people depending on them. They have fewer shareholders to please, and less danger of destroying their reputation and losing years’ of income.

Stronger bonds

Sometimes, when a brand is huge and already well-established, it can be hard to instil that same sense of connection that smaller businesses have. We tend to view bigger corporations as faceless, autonomous machines. The more a company expands, the more consumers they are likely to have. Why would they pay any attention to you?

Another reason why customers get frustrated with brand support is the sheer number of requests that companies receive on a daily basis. Larger companies need large teams to handle customer service requests, along with marketing obligations, phone calls, emails, and in-person visits. It's easy for some customers to get lost in the shuffle.

Consumers no longer have patience for lacklustre real-time customer support — a big problem when nearly half of consumers say they will abandon a brand if they receive poor service.

Small businesses often have the luxury of being able to focus on a specific niche of consumers. By understanding their audience, these businesses can tailor products and services to meet those consumer's explicit needs.


For smaller businesses, the world is your oyster — you just have to seize the chance