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Taking on the Big Boys

By : Ziad K Abdelnour| 2 December 2014
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Thanks to the Internet, entrepreneurs today across the board can disrupt slow moving industries like never before.

This process is also creating billionaires the world over faster than any time in history and I believe this is just the beginning.

It is clear the winners in the business world today are very quickly becoming those that know how to adapt and innovate, not those with the deepest pockets as anyone with the right commitment and burning desire to succeed can turn a good idea into a functioning business overnight, and find customers all around the world.

So when somebody approaches me with a new business idea, I ask them three questions to evaluate the idea:

1.      What is your competitive advantage? (This will ensure that you are differentiated from your competition and you stand out in your industry)
2.      What is your value add to consumers? (This will ensure that there is a clear reason as to why a customer will want to transact with you)
3.      Do people think your idea is crazy? (If everyone thinks your idea is crazy then it challenges the status quo enough to make a difference)

If you can answer these three questions well, there’s a great chance you’re on to something.

But thinking big is not enough… It is in fact an absolute waste of time if you’re not going to execute on your ideas. You can have the best idea in the world, sit on it for far too long, and have a savvy entrepreneur come along and beat you to the punch. Once you’ve got your crazy, disruptive, big idea, it all comes down to how fast and well you can turn that idea into a “money machine”.

With around 30 year experience on Wall Street backing over 125 companies worth in aggregate over 10 billion dollars during the time period, here are some priceless tips on how to turn real big ideas into a thriving powerhouse.

Be pragmatic

Base your decisions on facts rather than emotions. Keep a light, hopeful heart… But ­always expect the worst. This is the attitude of the real smart warrior. Yes think big, but remember you also have to take on businesses that have much bigger budgets than you do. Remember that the game is rigged at the outset by the big boys; and whoever tells you it is not is either delusional or utterly stupid. So make sure you always accept reality for what it is, and most importantly always have a clear strategy in place for how you’re going to achieve your lofty goals.  The devil is always in the details backed by ruthless execution.

Be dangerous

Only a big, crazy idea can shatter the status quo. The best businesses do things in a way that no one has ever done before. Facebook changed the way we communicate. True entrepreneurs are inventors with the self-belief to take new steps down untraveled roads, shatter the norm and find imaginative ways to improve our lives. If you need any more inspiration, just take a look at Apple’s “Think Different” advertisement. At the end the day, each new generation is a beneficiary of the great minds of the generations before. However, an inventor needs to build upon what he has inherited. Previous generations inherited the book, and created the computer. Today’s generation has inherited one of the greatest opportunities in the history of man with the Internet. Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to make the fat, dumb and happy big boys real mad. Your honesty will inspire your true base of customers and investors. It is indeed an “Economic Warfare” out there… between Big Brother and their cronies and the anti-establishment. If you don’t believe so, you are still in the clouds.

Gather intel like no one does

The big boys have deep pockets and huge advertising budgets to influence the public. To compete with this, your challenger brand must gather “intel” like no one does and hit them right in their Achilles heal and rest assured everyone has one – even the mightiest organizations out there. This isn’t easy, as there is no silver bullet for how to achieve this. It’s always made up by lots of little things that accumulate to the point of implosion. This attention to detail and efficiency is something the big brands are generally too lazy or stupid to bother with.

Learn from the big boys mistakes

They say a fool learns from his mistakes, a wise man from others. Always keep an eye on what your big boys competitors are doing around you. It’s far too easy to get stuck in your own world. It’s much cheaper to learn from someone else’s mistakes, than your own. Get inspiration from what others are doing right, but get just as much from what they’re doing wrong. Everyone will tell you that you are about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is just part of life. What does the world want of you? Does it want you to take no risks, to go back to where you came from because you didn’t have the courage to say “yes” to life? Grow up… One thing I am telling you. There is nothing sweeter in life than beating the shit out of the big boys. Remember John D. Rockefeller famous quote? “I don’t meet competition; I crush it”.

Learn how to talk to the money guys

As a disrupter, you must take full advantage of all your competitive advantages. One of them is capital access, speed and agility. The bureaucracy in traditional big companies means that they take a very long time to make decisions and adapt to changes in the marketplace. You must exploit this and ensure that your company is on top of all the latest trends and ready, willing and able to access the big bucks as soon as you have zeroed in on your target. Just like a “stealth bomber” hitting an enemy target. Always remember: Wall Street is all about power. They really don’t care about the size of your company as long as you have a truly stellar team and game changing idea in place ready to buck the system with. Learn how to talk to the money guys.

It’s not a short sprint, it’s a long marathon

Never forget that successful business is not a short sprint but a long marathon. Hence, never let short-term profitability or a few early successes deviate you from building a strong business that will be here for many years to come (like the big companies you are taking on). It is in fact crucial to have a clear goal and vision about what your business is out to achieve. As mentioned earlier; the game out there is already rigged, the big guys have been around for a long time, and you won’t beat them overnight. It will take a lot of hard work, determination and perseverance. But after all is said and done,  it’s hard to beat a person who never ever gives up. Be that person and go for the kill.

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