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The facts and fallacies of market disruption

The term “disruption” remains popular in business schools and startups nationwide, but has there really been a shift, or is the risk/reward system different for big businesses compared to small?

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market disruption

Market disruption or maybe a paradigm shift

I am currently sitting in a restaurant that caused quite a market disruption. By disruption, I mean that their food gave me a stomach ache and it’s disrupted my work day. Well, I’m not sure if it was really disruptive. It might just have caused a paradigm shift.

In increasing number this year, there have been a series of popular articles arguing about the (possible) shift in how small businesses now successfully usurped established organizations. The foundational book that defines much of the business school discussion is “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christenson. The term largely in play is ‘disruption.’ If you want to learn more about it, just ask any recently graduated MBA student or spend six figures for an hour of Christenson’s time. Your choice (note: you can comfortably ask ANY MBA student – whether from the University of Phoenix or Harvard, because they are all learning this same thing).

For those who stay away from these types, here’s a haphazard summary of Christenson’s thesis: small businesses disrupt the market by focusing on cheap/low end needs while the big organizations cater to the luxury crowd. It would seriously be in your best interest to talk to someone from McKinsey about his thesis, though, because I’m probably off here, but you get the gist.

I’ve spent the last 10 years interacting with ‘thought leaders.’ Much of the time, I am fascinated by the insight that people offer into human behavior and business. Often, though, I find myself looking around just waiting for someone else to yell “seriously? What the hell are we talking about again?” Here’s what frustrates me:

1. Word games are fun for everyone

I’m a communication guy, so words are particularly interesting to me. What I find most interesting is the way words change in their usage over time. For instance, back in the days of Zig Ziglar- the term motivational speaker was reserved for the few who motivated masses of people. Then, others started using the term to benefit by associating with Ziglar’s work. We eventually end up with Chris Farley in a van down by the river.

The point? Words change meaning. And yet, people spend hours of energy fighting over the terms that define concepts that attempt to explain business phenomena. Why? I’m not sure, but it brings me to my next point.

2. Enough with descriptions and definitions

I am certainly not one to say that it’s not helpful for entrepreneurs to understand the nature, market conditions, and past recipes of successful entrepreneurial endeavors. Except I don’t think it is.

Look- most small businesses fail. Some succeed. There are small businesses who offer luxury products that fail, and those that succeed. There are small businesses who succeed by capturing the ‘quality at a cheaper price’ market, and those that fail.

There are a number of reasons for this… Bad luck. Under-capitalization. Too much booze. Not enough Adderall. An annoying spouse. Traffic.

You know what will not help a new entrepreneur? Theories in market disruption. Perhaps I’ve read too much of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, but I fall squarely into the camp that argues that past descriptions of ‘this is what happened’ don’t do a whole lot to accurately tell me on a micro level what I should do.

3. Small business versus The Man

Here’s my highly comprehensive research on the market disruption debate (please insert however many big adjectives necessary to truly understand that what I’m about to say next is authoritative).

Big businesses like to be safe. Why? Because risks aren’t rewarded. Sure, the organization needs to risk, but the individual in the organization certainly doesn’t. As a business manager in big company, you can be told all day long that you need to innovate, but if you do and succeed – you get a tiny bonus… if that. If you risk and fail? That 20 million dollars you just wasted means you get to start looking for a new job.

I don’t blame you if instead you choose to spend most of your day reading articles about innovation and risk- and I appreciate you reading and referencing mine in particular.

Small businesses need to take risks. We must be agile. Why? Because we want to eat. The risk/reward and/or benefit analysis results in a completely different sort of decision making.

Now, let’s describe this phenomenon more and categorize it and argue about the words so that we can be really helpful to everyone. Hmmm.

4. Let me give you more information about a subject

Here’s the real rub. You don’t need more information. I recently spoke to a professor who told me the papers he receives from students include the most lengthy bibliographies he’s ever seen… with the worst analysis he’s ever seen.

We live in an age where information is available and abundant. We love to access it, but the problem is that we don’t know what to do with it. And the more time we spend seeking it, the less we have to take the risks to analyze and act.

And in conclusion

Personally, put me squarely in the camp of ‘not giving a crap’ as to whether the current market has shifted in terms of the types of disruption. I’m too busy growing a business.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

Business Entrepreneur

How can a small business beat a large competitor moving in next door?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) How do you stand out when a big competitor moves to your neighborhood? Reddit has a few suggestions – some obvious, some not so much.

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Small businesses, especially restaurants have been hit hard by lockdowns. Many closed for good this year, and those that are still hanging on are in a precarious position as their local economies shift.

Last week, a user on r/smallbusiness asked a timeless question that is especially relevant right now. Reddit user longbottomjr writes: “We have a strong competitor moving in next door in a few months. Our restaurant is one that pays the bills but […] I feel that if this new competitor takes up enough market share we will lose our restaurant. Can anyone chime in with resources/ideas I can use to help put together our plan of action?”

Comments quickly pointed out what common sense would dictate.

First, ensure the basics are covered. Being clean, quick, friendly, and high quality will take you far, no matter what competition you’re up against. And as u/horsemullet said, “Customer service also happens before someone walks through the door!” So make sure that your online hours, contact info, menus and social media accounts are up to date and accurate.

Another point emerged that is less intuitive: Competing businesses will naturally gravitate towards similar locations. This is a well-established phenomenon known within game theory as Nash’s Equilibrium. In the restaurant industry, this is actually a good thing. It brings entirely new customers to the area and ultimately benefits all the other nearby businesses, too.

Take advantage of the attention by offering something other spots don’t, like loyalty rewards, specials, unique offerings, or meal deals.

Speaking of the area, a great way to stand out from larger competitors is to build relationships with the community you serve, as u/sugarface2134 emphasized. “In my city there are two Italian restaurants in the same location – just across the parking lot from each other. We always pick the smaller one because the owner truly makes you feel like a member of the family.”

That’s an advantage of being a small, local business that all the money in the world couldn’t buy. Get to know your customers personally and you will not only create loyal regulars, but friends as well.

One of the top rated responses, from u/seefooddiet2200, made an often overlooked but critically important point.

“Talk to your staff and see if they have any ideas. These are the people that are working every single day and may know one or two ‘annoying’ things that if they were switched would make things easier. Or maybe they see that there’s specific things people ask for that you don’t serve. Every single [one] of your employees is a gold mine of insight, you just need to be open to listening to them.”

That is applicable to any business owner who wants to improve their practices.

Ask employees what they think, especially the ones who have stuck around a long time. Not only do they know the ins-and-outs of their jobs, but this builds rapport and trust with your staff. A good boss realizes that employees are more than their job descriptions. They have valuable thoughts about what’s working and not working, and direct access to customer’s opinions.

Good luck, u/longbottomjr! We’ll be rooting for you.

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Business Entrepreneur

This app lets you swipe right on the co-founder of your dreams

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) It’s said that business can be a lot like dating – and Tertle is taking advantage of that to find you a vetted, high-quality co-founder with a few swipes.

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Two men standing in meeting room with others, shaking hands as they agree to be co-founder together.

Much like there is a dating app for every romantic match possible, there is now a way to match with your ideal co-founder. And the name will help you ease out of your shell when connecting with your new partner.

Tertle is a new online app that helps you find the co-founder that best suits your needs. According to developers, “Tertle sends you frequent, vetted, high-quality co-founder matches via email or WhatsApp based on things that matter to you – giving you precious time back and putting an end to endless profile crawling.”

So how does it work? Like any other matching app, you first start by creating your profile. Tell Tertle a little bit more about you and what you’re looking for in a co-founder.

Next comes the vetted matching. Tertle will match you up based on things you both care about – like your skill sets, location, values, and interests. Finally, you connect and chat. Receive weekly 1:1 video chat calendar invitations at a time that suits you.

When answering why Tertle was founded, developers wrote, “We, like you, are startup fanatics. Finding the right co-founders is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in pursuit of a successful venture. We think there’s nothing currently out there that really hits the mark in helping like-minded co-founders easily connect—and so, Tertle hatched.”

As a reviewer pointed out on Product Hunt, the safest (and most heard about) route when selecting a co-founder is to choose someone you went to college with or have a long-standing relationship with. However, this may not always be an option and so it’s nice to have a little help from profile-matching algorithms.

Tertle developer Ryan Connaughton appreciated the Product Hunt feedback and expressed the following, “In terms of the algorithm, I’ve been matching people manually to test the waters while also working on a simple algorithm as MVP (what skillsets they’re looking for and location IF thats also important to them).

Following an MVP, my thinking is I can vet harder with more in-depth data collection (personality types, values, problems spaces of interest, etc). Of-course this will require a much deeper user-research/spike piece first before I can get to the right solution.

In addition, there can only be so much ‘filtering/vetting’ you can do before you have to get some hard validation that this is the right person – that being, actually working together. So assuming that I can get the prerequisites above right and there’s interest, I think there’s then potential of guided mini-hackathon style projects or some kind of ‘trials’.

Worst case scenario: You meet someone new, learn some stuff, give each other feedback for you to grow and have fun building something. Best case scenario: All of the above, plus the problem/solution holds water and/or you form a continued lasting relationship.”

The site boasts being free to beta users forever; so, if you’re on the hunt for a co-founder, it may be worth it to join the waitlist and see what’s out there.

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Business Entrepreneur

Not just for kids: 3 Rs to help your team cope with stress

(ENTREPRENEUR) The three Rs of child psychology, Reassurance, Routine, and Regulation, may also help your team and you cope with the added stress 2020 has wrought.

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Woman drawing next to body of water, a great technique to cope with stress

Yes, we all know 2020 was a massive dumpster fire. We are all still working to cope with processing the losses and fear this putrid year has brought with it. The three Rs can help you and your team better cope with stress, and our reactions to the hitherto unfathomable woes of 2020.

If you are a parent or work with kids, you may have heard of the new three Rs: Reassurance, Routine, and Regulation. If you don’t have or work with kids, why would you care? These three Rs can also help adults cope with the stress, grief, anger, and anxiety most of us are facing in 2020.

It makes sense that something that can work to alleviate children’s negative feelings during the pandemic may also work for adults. We may experience and process problems differently than children, as we run everything through the filter of life experience and what we know of the world and the way it works.

However, much of what we are seeing with the global pandemic is new to us, and we are stuck in the same boat as our children, restless, afraid, and wondering how we’ll pull through. Here are three Rs to help all of us cope with stress. If we take what Laura Santhanam of PBS NewsHour and Jessica Bartlett of Child Trends advised for children, and apply them to our own overwhelming concerns, we may begin to feel better. I’m all for anything that helps us feel better.

Here’s a rundown of the three Rs and how they can help you and your team cope:

  • Reassurance: We need to reassure ourselves—of our own safety, of all that we are doing to stay safe, and that others are out there diligently working to ensure and improve our safety. Reassure your team of what the company is doing to help keep workers safe, whatever those preventive measures may be.Reassure yourself and your team that you’re doing what you need to in order to stay safe. Reassure yourself that epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are working day and night to learn more about this virus and how to control it. Reassure yourself that two promising vaccines are already FDA approved and being administered around the world, and that this will help us, slowly but surely, return to a life we are familiar and comfortable with.

    Reassure and remind yourself and your team that people are still out there in the world being kind, helpful, and awesome. Maybe share something from the Good News Network or other chronicle.

  • Routine: If you are like me, routine went out the window in March, replaced by endless chores and cooking during the day and staying up late worrying about the state of the world. Routine matters. Just as it can help ease troubled young minds, it can also guide us to a better way to cope.Routines give us a needed sense of stability. It’s one area of our lives that we can take control of, even amidst the flaming chaos of 2020. I’m not suggesting you drink your morning coffee at the kitchen table surrounded by flames and proclaim “This is fine,” like KC Green’s famous memefied cartoon dog. We all have to draw the line in the sand as to what and how much we will accept and what we need to work to change. However, there is something to be said for regularity, a place for quotidian activities, a routine.

    Try to set up or return to a regular bedtime and meal times. Set boundaries for work life and home life—always a challenge when you work from home. Ask your team members how they are setting boundaries or share tips on how you are. Help your team incorporate or return to a routine at work. Perhaps in 2020, work calendars went haywire along with everything else, as nearly every company has had to change the way they do business this year.

    Find a way to bring back some routine where you can fit it in. It could help your team stay on track while dealing with the rest of what 2020 throws at them. Build pleasurable activities into your own routine. Make time to read, play, or otherwise unwind. Lean into the routine. Here’s hoping you and your team can find comfort in being able to control at least this much!

  • Regulate: This refers to self-regulating, coping mechanisms we can incorporate to check ourselves when we start to panic or spiral. Parents, teachers, and others in child care can teach children these techniques to help them manage “big feelings.” We grownups can also use these tools to deal with our big feelings.Regulating tools for adults include breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, talking to a therapist, NAMI hotline, or friend about your emotions. Other means of self-regulating include making a plan to socialize with friends (virtually works), exercising to clear a busy mind, and getting enough sleep. Try to use some or all of these tools the next time you feel overcome with negative emotions.

Of course, feelings aren’t something we discuss much at work, as a rule. However, sending out information on resources available within your company can help your team regulate what they are going through. If your company pays for therapy as part of a benefits package, let them know. If you have set up a hotline or other helpful resource, let them know. Put together a list of helpful websites or organizations that can help with them access these regulating tools, or ask your Human Resources department to do so. You could even share this article, if you found it helpful. You may reach a team member at precisely the perfect time to help them through some heavy stuff.

While adults often consider themselves experts at dealing with our own feelings, again, way too many catastrophic events have gone down in 2020. As they say on the interwebs, this wasn’t on my 2020 Bingo card. We likely can all benefit from the three Rs. Give it a shot, because we all need to cope with our stress somehow.

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