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This article originally appeared on American Express Open Forum:Large, hulking corporations seem to have every advantage in the world over small businesses—but weaknesses can be exploited by smaller competitors if they know how.
Judo strategy is not new. It has been around for decades, and smart companies are still using its valuable lessons to fight the more powerful industry players. The idea is to use skill to defeat size.
Here are 10 techniques of judo strategy, as defined by David B. Yoffie and Mary Kwak from Harvard Business School, that may help your small business.
Don't try to match what the bigger company is doing. If you try to compete with a stronger competitor at the exact same thing they already excel at, you'll always lose. By investing in your own unique core strengths, you can develop your own areas of excellence.
Small businesses have to be quick to execute while they have a window open, but not to the point where they become obsessed with speed. Large competitors will recognise the threat that you pose, and act to eliminate it, so you must take advantage of the window while it's available and prepare for the big company's impending response.
Build positive relationships with your larger rivals. This will create less incentive for them to fight back. Forming strategic partnerships and joint ventures may seem like a win-win situation for everybody, when it's really a way to defend your position in the industry.
When the bigger company makes a move against you, don't try to match it. Instead, take the time to assess the situation and respond with a counter that plays on the strength that you've developed. But this isn't an absolute rule--sometimes a direct response is appropriate.
Giant companies have tons of momentum, and it's harder for them to change a strategy once they've committed ample resources to it. So if they get caught in a strategy that is hurting them, their inability to easily change it forces difficult decisions: Stay the course or cut their losses.
You're going to lose some battles, so don't get riled up when a big company succeeds in defeating some of your strategies. It takes a level of discipline to be able to retreat, reload, and head back into the fray from another angle. Emotional responses can be devastating if you let a loss take hold of you--instead, just try to minimize the loss and continue.
Big companies have invested incredible amounts of money, time, and labour into building up their assets. These heavily-invested assets such as brands, production capabilities, and supply chains are all huge strengths these companies boast, but they're also limitations. Sometimes they can't shift their strategy enough to respond adequately to an agile, small company.
Even a company's closest friends will always look out for themselves over others. Partners are independent and have different interests, so if you can create situations that pull these interests away from the those of your competitor, it weakens them. It's the centuries-old tactic of divide and conquer.
This doesn't mean to sit there idly and watch--a company can actively use other competitors to take on a common enemy. Find a way to complement an opponent's competitor's products with your own, develop partnerships with them or perhaps become one of their distributors.
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