The Internet is making it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to think big, and disrupt slow moving industries. We’ve seen technology revolutionise journalism, allowing only the best publications to survive the Web 2.0 era. Twenty years ago if you wanted the privilege of having other people read your words you had to start working in the mailroom of a big publisher and work your way up for a decade. Likewise, if you wanted your fix of daily news and editorials, you were forced to read whatever happened to be published. Now, anyone with a worthy opinion or something interesting to say can easily publish it online. New communication tools and platforms have forced the big publishers to compete in an open market of ideas as storytelling is continually democratised.
We’ve also seen technology revolutionise the entertainment industry. Justin Bieber managed to get millions of fans around the world after uploading a few videos to YouTube. Love him or hate him, he proved that the Internet shatters barriers that existed only a few years ago. Similarly, in business, you don’t need a huge marketing budget to take on the established industry Goliaths. The winners in the business world are very quickly becoming those that know how to adapt and innovate, not those with the deepest pockets.
20 years ago, millions of dollars worth of capital was needed to start almost any business. From showrooms and offices to large product catalogues in storage, being an entrepreneur wasn’t easy, or cheap. The Internet has removed these barriers. Now, anyone can turn a good idea into a functioning business overnight, and find customers all around the world. But the ideas of years gone by will no longer cut it.
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 and 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 business. Here are some tips on how to turn these big ideas into a thriving business:
React swiftly and innovate
A jetski has many advantages over a massive ocean liner. As a disrupter, you must take full advantage of all your competitive advantages. One of them is 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 consumer trends. For instance, online retail has been prominent for close to 10 years. However, the largest retailers are only now starting to acknowledge that the Internet is real and here to stay. The businesses that recognised this trend over 5 years ago now have a significant footprint in this channel. It’s now the big guys that are trying to play catch up to established online stores.
Walk before you run
Don't let a bit of success at a small scale get you overly excited. By all means celebrate the early wins -- your first customer, your first million dollar day, winning a big account, etc. But don't lose sight of the big picture by getting too excited about the small stuff. At the same time, ensure you are learning to walk before you run. Even though you might be perfecting one market to start with, you can secure your future path with very little cost if you act fast.
It’s not a short sprint, it’s a long marathon
Always remember that business is not a short sprint. 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 important to have a clear goal and vision about what your business is out to achieve. This vision will make you and your team wake up every morning.
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.
Learn from others
A fool learns from his mistakes, a wise man from others. Always keep an eye on what others 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.
Shake things up
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. However, if Mark Zuckeberg told us ten years ago his website would one day have more hits than Google, everyone would have laughed. Now, Facebook has over one billion active users. 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.
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. Now, the craziest and most original minds among us have the ability to fully explore its best potentials.