How small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can compete with Big Companies


By: Alexander Kyokwijuka

Starting out in business can be such an exciting experience for any entrepreneur because they are following their passion to realize their numerous dreams. That said, it can also be such a hustle especially if you are operating in an environment like ours (here in Uganda) where the cost of doing business is fairly harsh for small businesses. Remember for a small business run by a Ugandan, you don’t get the tax holidays, the free resources like land and the like. One of the biggest challenges a small business owner will face is keeping up with big businesses which may be already in business for some time and if it is starting, there is considerable big start up resource envelop. These big companies are blessed big marketing budgets and bulk purchasing power; they can easily overshadow small businesses, both physically and in the digital world. While it may seem like you’re fighting an uphill battle, there are a number of advantages that small businesses have over their larger counterparts and I think they can always operate and out compete these larger companies.

Small businesses should always strive to offer high level customer experience to their customers. In my book “How to start a BUSINESS in 10 days” I highlight the fact that the most important way your business can stand out of the very many offering the same service or product as you is to different the experience that your clients go through ass they consume your service or product. There is no doubt that you may be two businesses with similar products. But how I am treated from the time I set foot at your premise leaves a lasting memory on my mind and determines how many more times I should return. A few months ago I went to Skyz Hotel in Naguru, after I parked my car; there was a gentleman on standby with a sort of “motor carrier” waiting to give me a ride to the reception area. Trust me I went back with a kind of experience that no other Hotel had given me. At this point, I could not even mind about how much I was going to pay, and this can work for small businesses too since they have the chance to relate so easily with their customers. As a small business owner, you have the ability to develop a deeper, stronger, more personal relationship with your customers. Customers appreciate and pursue relationships and experiences, not just end results. If your customers know you provide a relationship they can’t get at that big business, they will come to you first, even if it costs them a little extra.

The other thing that small businesses must do is that they must innovate and don’t get tired of innovating. For small businesses, with their smaller staff and less formal processes in place, is often it much easier to innovate than it is for a larger business with a corporate structure. Whereas I know larger companies may have the budget to try a new platform or build a mobile app, and do all sorts of new things, I also know from experience that small businesses have less red tape to cut through and a more centralized location to brainstorm, plan, and execute. Innovation does not have to do with creating new products, it can be the same old product but you innovate in terms of how the customers experience your product differently. So as a small business, you can actually use innovation and creativity to ensure your competitive advantage over big businesses.

Finally, it is important to have good brains on your team. Employees make your business because they do the work and thus have a direct impact on what kind of results you get as an employer and what kind of services or products you put on the market for your customers. Therefore, the better workers you have, the more successful your business will be, keeping all other factors constant. Big businesses may have more employees and more resources to afford even better employees, but you can have few but great employees, something your customers will notice. Your employees might enjoy working for their boss directly involved in the business as well.

Alexander Kyokwijuka is a Business development and Management Consultant, an Author of How to start a BUSINESS in 10 days, and the C.E.O of Brookings Institute.



Written by 

Executive Director, Youth Aid Africa. Author, How to start a BUSINESS in 10 days Consultant/Trainer, MTAC (Under Ministry of Trade, Industry & Cooperatives)

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