The biggest barrier our company faces

November 25, 2020

The biggest barrier  smaller or lesser-known companies faceis fear. Potential clients fear the unknown and fear damaging their reputation. I’ll give you some examples:

Concious bias

Say you just started a new job. You invite some new work colleagues over for a BBQ and head to the supermarket.

Looking for BBQ sauce in the condiment aisle you find 3 varieties. Which do you choose?

a) Heinz

b) Mama W’s Family Recipe

c) Supermarket own brand

Most people will choose a) since it is a recognisable, reliable crowd-pleaser. You aren't to blame if someone doesn’t like it. It’s made for the masses. Second is c) because some people just want the cheapest option. In last place is b) the unknown company.

Unconscious bias

The same thing happens in business. The majority of people, when put in charge of choosing a supplier, contractor, or partner, will go with a generic option. To go outside of this is scary as there are more unknown variables (known as risk-aversion). Plus if something goes wrong, it is your neck on the line. There is a part to play on our part to provide social proof and gurantees as the new competitor on the scene. But 9 times out of 10, decision-makers will not stray from their comfort zone.

The influence of branding is nothing new. In 2013, a group of subjects in an Auckland University study were consciously changed from a branded to a generic medication. They reported more symptoms and side effects. In fact both versions were placebos. Branded drugs and their non-branded equivalents have the same active ingredient, producing the same effect. The issue is the unconscious brand bias and the likelihood that you are more likely to be concerned about possible side effects if you do not recognise the name on the box - setting up negative expectations early on.

The benefits of the unknown

Picking up the bottle of ‘Mama W’s Family Recipe’ sauce, you read the label on the back. The Williams family had been making their sauce from scratch at home for decades. Their choice ingredients make for a smoky and tangy flavour and are all natural. Now they are opening their home up to you, the consumer.

This isn’t a multi-national producing millions of bottles a year. The ingredients aren’t engineered for the masses and chosen for longevity and profit-margins. This isn’t going to be a generic meal. It’s made by people who specialise in BBQ sauce for those people who really like BBQ sauce.

Here is my argument for picking the smaller company:

  1. High stakes. They have more skin in the game - if they fail to please their company fails. They have to work harder to be chosen over the big guys so will have put the hours in to make sure they provide the best.
  2. No fear. They are not afraid of failure and see it as a necessary tool to find the product sweet spot.
  3. New ideas. They want to be innovative. And whats more, they can be innovative. A new company's success is dependent on its ability to quickly pivot in response to incoming feedback, data, and ideas.
  4. Rapid trial and error. They favour experimentation over discussion in pursuit of figuring out what works and then quickly multiplying those results.
  5. Talent. Team members tend to take on multiple roles so become cross-functional. They know and understand how to develop everything from strategies to systems and processes from the bottom up.
  6. Access. Team members also have the benefit of spending a lot of direct time with everybody involved - from founders to your clients or customers. This translates to a better result, faster. They also tend to have a solid understanding of what everyone else does because the team is so small, quickly becoming invested in business objectives, and cultural values.
  7. Creativity. Startups have loose systems in place, so the process someone uses to design or develop something might look a bit different every time. This is hugely important to make sure you get the best, most unique, and most competitive result.
  8. Easy to manage. Startups also have fewer people to manage. And the more moving parts you have in play, the greater room there is for error.

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