Three tips for taking on big businesses

Launching a business in an industry that already has a number of very successful businesses is no mean feat. At the Fast Track 100 Awards event in London recently, a panel of entrepreneurs who have successfully taken on big businesses discussed how they did it.

1. Build relationships with customers

Henrietta Morrison, founder of Lily’s Kitchen, launched a specialised pet food business, going up against two big players. She found that the most important thing for her business was building a relationship with her customers. Her business was reliant on reviews when she first launched as she had no money for a marketing budget.

“It’s a daily battle to fight for shelf space,” she said. “But we cut through by talking to our customers – you should make them your insiders.”

Morrison even went further than just looking for customers’ opinions – she said that they aim to treat their customers with respect and even send a bunch of flowers when they hear that one of their customers’ pets has died.

2. Build a team you can trust

Your team is so important in any business, but when you’re a start-up taking on a big business you need people you can trust to get the work done. As Sarah Wood, co-founder of Unruly, said: “If you can’t delegate you’re dead.”

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Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company, agreed with this idea, noting that her team is one of her inspirations in business.

Nick Jenkins, founder of Moonpig, said that alongside team, business culture is really important too. “The culture of a company is not made up in the HR department, it’s hard to maintain that as you grow,” he said. “Culture has to come from the top.”

3. Get your product right

Above anything else in business, your product is the most important. If what you’re offering doesn’t compare to what big businesses are doing then you won’t attract customers away from them. Getting your product right should be a main priority.

Nick Grey, founder of GTech, said it’s important to keep it simple. “Work hard on your product,” he said. “Care about it.”

Rucker said that she’s “an out and out product person”. She added: “I love looking for inspiration and trying to find products other people do not sell.”

Rucker also cares deeply about the products she sells. “The business is my child,” she said. “It’s inspired by life.”

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