Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it. – Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man
I came across the book Go it alone by Bruce Judson and decided to go through it – mainly because Judson talked about how he decided to test out his ideas about solo businesses by starting ones of his own.
It looked like there would be some stuff in there that was based on real life – rather than supposition.
Reading the introduction again, there is a sentence which reads, “The principal result of these efforts is my absolute conclusion that in appropriate circumstances, the ideas in this book have substantial merit.”
I think you could shorten that to, “In some cases, these ideas will help.”
For this post I actually thought I’d start with a book that Judson talks about called It’s not the big that eat the small… It’s the fast that eat the slow – which inspired the image above.
Now this, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense.
Big companies got big because there were certain things about their history that made a difference.
GE, for example, is the company that Edison started – the guy with the light bulb.
Companies that get really big – the Fords and the Berkshire Hathaways do so over time by accumulating capability and resources.
As they get bigger they don’t have the ability to pick up small business.
For a large company a meaningful contract may start at 10 million dollars, and they wouldn’t be competing for the stuff that small companies go after for a few tens of thousands.
There’s a place in this ecosystem for big and small – they feed off the same thing after all – just at different levels.
The real place where competition exists is where it’s red in tooth and claw – where you have one creature that feeds off the other.
This is where you have a competitor that wants to get another one’s customers.
It’s what Facebook did to MySpace, for example.
The faster one wins.
And this happens at different levels, with small firms competing with each other and larger firms doing the same.
When this happens whoever is fastest is probably going to win.
If you’re in the market for a new car, will you go with the supplier who has one in stock now or go with the one that can get it in three weeks at the same price?
In a network economy, with a winner take all system, being first to market can be vital.
Everyone else has to feed on what’s left behind.
Now, this isn’t always easy.
Technology businesses make it look like everything can be disrupted, but that isn’t always the case.
Some technology products aren’t really worth having – they’re not going to take off.
Other markets are so entrenched with such long lived assets, that change takes time.
But here’s the thing – borrowing Judson’s formulation.
In appropriate circumstances, being the fastest means you win.