In his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell sets out to readdress the myth of David’s invincibility. It was not just David’s aim, says Gladwell, but the lumbering giant’s weakness that settled the issue. Goliath was slow, clumsy and probably half-blind. And he was a large target for a foot soldier like David, with his trusty slingshot. So it is with small and medium-sized businesses like mine. We must use all our skills to outwit our larger, more powerful competitors. But, although there are many exceptions, they can be slow to respond, tone-deaf in their approach to problem-solving and top-heavy, like poor old Goliath.
In the marketplace, I find that we attract like-minded clients, of all sizes. Corporations are looking for new ways to compete and operate in an environment that is, to put it mildly, dynamic. Many of the larger ones struggle with legacies – legacy software, legacy structures and legacy business methods. All of the strategies that served them well for years or even decades are now under scrutiny. Slowly in some cases, radically in others, sacred cows are being jettisoned.
This creates an opportunity for SMEs. The best of them combine cutting-edge technologies with the type of customer-obsessed business practices that most larger competitors simply can’t match. We treat each client as if it was our only one, and we mould our practices and pace to that client – some move quickly, others are more deliberate, some will take zero financial risk, others are willing to shoulder more risk in return for a lower price.
Working with SMEs has another benefit – the CEO is not some faceless person in a far off ‘corporate office’ – it’s me! I – and all the other CEOs of small and growing businesses – care deeply and profoundly about the people who work for me and the companies who have chosen to trust me with their business. This kind of authenticity and connection can’t be faked. We don’t operate like a conveyor belt, shuffling through people and clients like so many packages; we treat each client, each staff member, as an individual. The client has access to the top decision maker always, not some corporate VP: I respond, I empower decisions, I facilitate. Because in the end, while we don’t want to be the biggest company to serve our industry, we want to be respected and valued for what we do. What corporate vice-president could say that?
Farida Gibbs is CEO of Gibbs Hybrid, the single source supplier of technology, outsourcing and talent management. Based in Wallington Surrey, Gibbs Hybrid was founded in 2005 and now has additional offices in Manchester, Dublin, Gdansk, Luxembourg and New Jersey.