Running your own company means being an underdog, practically by definition. There will always be an incumbent who has more capital, a fatter marketing budget, and more shelf space. What on earth do you have that can neutralize the big guys' advantages?
Well, I can think of two things, and they're both covered in depth in the June issue of Inc.
The first is your work force. The prospect of crouching in the belly of a giant corporation has shrinking appeal for employees these days. That's good for you. As the leader of a human-size organization, you have a unique opportunity to build a team who do their best work because they enjoy being there. That certainly defines the companies on our second annual Best Workplaces list. We can say that with confidence, because Best Workplaces is built on the opinions of real live employees. Every one of the nearly 2,000 companies that entered was asked to administer a work force survey created by our partner Quantum Workplace. The employees' verbatim answers were telling--and eye opening. Of the winners' surveys, says Quantum CEO Greg Harris, " 'I do my best work' and 'I work on an amazing team' were seen countless times."
The second great equalizer is design. Incorporating aesthetic appeal into her S'well thermal bottles from conception gave Sarah Kauss breakout sales (now $100 million and climbing) and a path to remaking a $7 billion industry. But design is about more than looks; it's about enfolding users in a brand-defining experience, as senior editor Danielle Sacks and her team of writers make clear in this year's Inc. Design Awards. Two new Inc.com contributors, Patricia O'Connell and Tom Stewart, define "service design" thus: "The conscious decision, based on deep insight into the customers you want to serve, to create a consistent, compelling experience at every point of contact." Increasingly, this is the field you compete on today--and it's one on which you, as a founder, have an edge over the Goliaths. Grab it.
Certainly, no founders exploit this edge more creatively than Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, co-founders of Warby Parker. Relentless focus on users is why Warby is actually growing brick-and-mortar sales (astonishingly) in the midst of a retail apocalypse. It's also why Blumenthal and Gilboa are acting to fill in the last piece in a seamless Warby experience--the vision test. Editor-at-large Tom Foster traces the decisions that gave birth to the company's cleverly designed home-test service. Check it out, and see why Warby Parker still inspires entrepreneurs--and still terrifies incumbents.