Don’t be fooled: The United States is still the Land of Opportunity. There are few countries in the world that provide this type of positive landscape to grow a business. Its high-tech minded, entrepreneurial spirit is what originally drew me away from my home in Sweden more than a decade ago. And Boston, recently named North America’s smartest city in Fast Company, is one of the best places to build strategic long-term business partnerships.
Yet despite the U.S.’ pioneer spirit and the strong prospects here in the northeast, it’s surprising how many small business owners buy into the negative myths about growing their companies.
I started at my company (Axis Communications) in 1996 as a technical writer before growing into a product management role. As our company grew I had the opportunity to move to the U.S. with the mission of expanding our footprint and business operations in the physical security industry. I quickly found myself working for a small foreign company in a conservative market segment dominated by multinational conglomerates. A lot of people had advice about what not to do and what couldn't be done.
Ten years later, we’ve grown each year to reach the number one market position by bringing a new and innovative business model to a traditional market. Some business challenges will be out of your control, but there are three main myths that often hold small companies back:
“You can’t compete with household brand names.”
When starting to penetrate the physical security business in the U.S., I heard one question far too many times, “How can you ever compete against a Honeywell, GE, Sony or Panasonic?” Focus is key for a small and growing company. The best talents in large brand name corporations are typically focused on their main business offering, while their secondary business units are less of a priority. When those corporations make staff or budget cuts, it’s typically in the divisions that compete with the small business. By staying focused on what they do well, smaller companies can catapult their success and head up the industry when larger corporations take their foot off the gas. Commit 100% to your service/product expertise, and your brand will soon be more recognized, trusted and established than the conglomerate that “does that too.”
“You need to have the lowest price to gain market share.”
Building a long term business value is one of the most important aspects of a sound strategy. Products built solely around delivering the lowest price often turn out to be flashes in the pan, not long term success stories. Value, not price, ensures customer satisfaction and repeat sales. This value-first mentality must influence your products, service offerings and all partners throughout your sales channel. Product plans should be developed to ensure the lifecycle lasts with the customer long-term. After all, if they are buying on value, it’s critical that the products work year after year to avoid customer service nightmares and lost sales.
“When you get big, growth will slow down.”
It’s common for sales people and their managers to set lower growth goals as they grow. But if the market potential is there, there is no reason to settle for less. Even large companies can attain substantial growth rates if the business is built on a scalable foundation (What’s the long term potential?), built on partnerships (Who can I trust to stay committed?) and, again, value (Will my customers believe in the next product release/new service?).
We’ve all heard the stats about how many businesses fail in the first year. The failure rate is worse for those who make it to year two. Unfortunately it’s because most adopt the copy-and-follow approach and become easily complacent, or they try to do too much for too many people. They accept these myths as truths – but you shouldn’t. Commit yourself to value, set unique but realistic goals and take calculated risks to build a top brand in your industry.
Fredrik Nilsson is the General Manager of North America for Axis Communications, the world’s leading provider of digital video surveillance technology.
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