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Taking on Goliath

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Winning away business from giant corporations and challenging them for market position can be very risky for a smaller enterprise, but if you have the courage and a great idea, it’s one of the most rewarding undertakings an entrepreneur can embark upon. Your success won’t just involve building a good business, but will stimulate innovation and encourage competition, benefitting consumers.


Before you take on a huge company, make sure that you know exactly what you’re up against. Learn as much as you can about the sector and how and why your rivals are able to thrive. Do your market research, focusing on how your product or service will be different from other brands’ offerings. After all, if you aren’t going to provide something better, what’s the point?


For example, when we launched Virgin Cola, our decision to compete with Coca-Cola was described to me as “like having a bleeding contest with a blood bank.” While our product was good, it wasn’t extraordinarily superior to Coke’s. We performed well for a while, but once they decided to put us out of business and flexed their financial muscle, our sales started dropping.


On the other hand, when we started promoting the high-speed tilting trains that we had purchased to cut travel times for passengers on our British rail business Virgin Trains, it was such an innovative idea that some people thought we were joking; the railroads were so old that surely it wasn’t possible. But we were confident that our approach was sound, and it wasn’t long before we had a successful business.