When you’re building a start-up, disruption is the dream. Who doesn’t see Airbnb or Uber, and wish they could do something similar?
But rapid growth comes at a price, and disruptors can find themselves a victim of their own success with a growing list of challenges to overcome.
In Marketing Week’s latest instalment of interviews for the 100 Disruptive Brands initiative, six disruptors describe the day-to-day challenges they face, and their tips on how to steal long-term success from the competition.
If you missed any of the previous videos, you can catch them all here:
Being able to balance long-term ambition with short-term commercial necessity is one of the biggest challenges a disruptor can face, according to Stephen Rapoport, founder of online coffee retailer Pact.
This ‘bi-focal’ vision allows disruptors to compete with some of the biggest brands in the world who have a far greater pool of resources to work with.
“Yes we have to meticulously manage cash and cash flow, short-term financial performance. And yet we’re trying to disrupt one of the largest industries in the world. We’re trying to make coffee a force for good and to do that we need to be 2,000 times our size.” – Stephen Rapoport, founder of Pact
Timing in the market is just as critical.
For co-founder and CMO of Evrythng Andy Hobsbawm, the greatest challenge isn’t providing customers with the right product or service; it’s doing so at the precise moment they actually need it.
Getting this right is the difference between being remembered as a pioneer of disruption or not being remembered at all. As Hobsbawm explains, being in a market from its early days can be both a benefit and a barrier.
“Are you giving the right service, product and offer to the market at the time they actually need it? It could be you’re looked back on as a footnote in the development of that market: those guys had the right idea but they were just a bit too early or, indeed, they launched it but by that time the first mover advantages had gone, it was locked up by the dominant players.” – Andy Hobsbawm, co-founder and CMO of Evrythng
Receiving negative feedback, especially in the early days when your customers are few, is difficult to handle – no matter how confident you are of your proposition.
Remember though, most feedback will provide valuable nuggets of insight that can be applied to the business, helping you give customers what they want.
“Some people take customer feedback really negatively and that can be a real challenge. (…) I think it’s important that customer feedback plays a continuing, revolving part in the way in which you develop your brand and your proposition.” – Eren Ozagir, founder and CEO of Push Doctor
Every business faces challenges but as a disruptor, retaining a disruptive state of mind is a key requirement to stay competitive according to James Kirkham, chief strategy officer of Copa90.
As any disruptive brand grows, it needs structures and processes to make sure things get done. The key is not letting this diminish the original culture and mentality that made the business special.
“The biggest thing that I look at every single day in the business is culture. Retaining that culture, keeping that gang mentality, allowing people to maintain the frankly chaotic spirit that still exists in many ways. That is vital because that can mean you still remain as creative, exciting and disruptive as ever – if you lose that, you lose the magic.” – James Kirkham, chief strategy officer of Copa90
Disruptors who have experienced great success such as Airbnb and Uber are an inspiration to all of us, but like all companies they will have experienced, and continue to experience, individual challenges that threaten their growth.
Tenacity and creativity are equally important in overcoming these challenges, and it’s generally down to a visionary leader to turn a disruptive idea into reality. But being surrounded by a diverse leadership team is crucial if you’re to keep tackling those challenges and sustain your idea as it grows.
Download a copy of the Small Business, Big Impact e-book for inspiration and advice to help you develop and grow your own idea for a disruptive business – and be one of Marketing Week’s 100 Disruptive Brands in 2017!