Running a small business (or a freelance career) is a lot like launching a long-term sortie into enemy territory; an enemy that is much larger, better equipped and with a weekly budget of more than you make in a year.
But you soldier on, because you have advanced training, the persistence and durability of a cockroach, and the hopes and dreams of an innocent child who…
Okay, so you’re pretty damn well outgunned. It doesn’t matter how talented and ambitious you are, because at the end of the day those big-name competitors are holding all the cards. They laugh at your pathetic attempts to outbid them. “Mwa ha ha!” they cackle, “You are puny and pathetic and one against our many! What could we possibly have to fear from you?”
It’s at this point that you’re bowing your head in shame, crying softly into your hands and slowly scuttling away into the underbrush, feeling around in the half-dark for that résumé that you stored away somewhere after leaving your last salaried job at Sprockets and Cubicles, Inc.
Before you call up Sally at the temp agency, though, consider these two words and seven (7!) syllables: Asymmetrical Warfare.
Recent History Lesson
On January 11, 2007, China launched a rocket into space, smashing an aging weather satellite to tiny orbiting bits. This was not new technology: the United States conducted its LAST satellite-smashing test in September of 1985, nearly 22 years previous. This was, however, a major upset in the military community because on that day the United States’ generally acknowledged vast military superiority was challenged.
Why? Think of it this way. The U.S. has this very large, very technologically sophisticated and very well funded military. We’ve got guns for our guns, and missiles for those guns. We spend lots and lots and lots of money on this military, and we could handedly beat China in a conventional warfare scenario because of this. Due to our technological superiority, however, our military is also highly reliant on satellites for everything from communications to GPS to guiding our missiles to make sure they hit bunkers instead of babies. When China displayed to the world that they had achieved a level of technological sophistication that allows them to knock out satellites at will, they were also announcing loud and clear that a military confrontation with them would not be so simple, and that they could easily level the playing field using these methods.
The Chinese and their satellite-busting technology is an example of asymmetrical warfare.
How Does This Apply to Business?
Like the Chinese, you have the advantage of being small and nimble when compared to the big, bureaucratic hulks that those larger businesses have become. You can make changes easily, adapting to the playing field while they are still asking their interns what a MySpace is.
You can use this swiftness to tackle new trends and uncover novel niches before the big guys even know they exist. Identifying these gems will allow you to find toeholds, handholds, and even set up shop in undeveloped fields (and sub-fields), which will allow you to conduct your own asymmetrical warfare against your opposition.
So take heart, find a weapon that will allow you to level the playing field, and use it while you can, because itâ€™s only a matter of time before the opposition develops an anti-satellite-missile-missile, which will slant things their way again.