How to deal with disruptors in your industry

Business is just like boxing, you must know when to move in for the kill and when to hang back and let your opponent swat flies with their hits. In the age of digital media and VC injections, many upstarts are looking to disrupt the usual way of doing business, particularly in spaces where the barrier of entry was high and the players were few. Taking a lesson from Mayweather and McGregor fight, here are some things you can do to make sure your footprint in the industry stays for generations to come.


Back to Basics

Know who you are and what matters in your business


When a disruptor enters an industry, the idea is to go after the fundamental of how business has been done. Airbnb went after the rigid nature of getting a hotel in the right spot of town for experiential travelers, Uber and Grab disrupts the speed and communication process of Taxi companies, blockchain disrupts the time it takes for loans and payment to get through in banks and McGregor looks to disrupt Mayweather 49 win streak with his reach and his heart.


As an operator, it is important to know how your business process run, stripped down to the basics. For Mayweather, it is his defensive speed and reach that has prevailed thus far. Pacquiao brought the fight to him, but Mayweather dodge it like no tomorrow. McGregor seemingly has a slight upper hand with more reach, but fail to land accurately and that is what caused him the match.


Similarly, you need to know how your business is making money and what glaring handicap you have (every business has one, you just need to know how to defend against it). If what disruptors are going after is not your handicap, then it is not your fight. It is business as usual until their VC injection wears out. If it is your handicap, then it is about turning the issue on its head and seeing if there is indeed a new way to do things, maybe even absorb the lessons from your disruptor to remain competitive.



You know the pace of innovation of your industry, stick to it


Disruptors always aim to hit fast and hit hard, thus lacking the usual foresight of business in the next 5-10 years, let alone 20 years. There will be a few exception to the rule but even then it is a castle in the sky. As an established company, you have more realistic projection and plans to either diversify or go deeper into an industry based on more information compared to a Tech company looking from the inside into this industry. The idea is to let them make mistakes while learning the trade, similar to how McGregor transition from MMA to Boxing. Let them take the fight to you and when they are weary (or run out of VC injection), knock them out or see if it is a worthy opponent that you would like to acquire (you never know what gems you might uncover to improve the state of your business).



Whose Turf are you on?

This is your wheel house, let them take the fight to you


McGregor has always benefited from being light and quick on his feet in the Octagon, but not so much when your opponent is a master on his turf and the literal king of the ring. If the match was set in an Octagon and all MMA rules apply, McGregor may stand a chance. In your industry, you know what works to your advantage and what mistakes others will make. This is by no means asking you to leave it to chance, but rather understand that since they are bringing the fight to you, you have less to lose than them, thus it is more important to fight intelligently (stay back and keep moving around like Mayweather) and make them desperate while your disruptor looks to gain a foothole as quickly as possible. Desperation is a worthwhile key to look into and it is a Achilles heel for most disruptors.



An understated factor in business, but oh so important


Most disruptors neglect rest to make sure they can make as much advances as quickly as possible but this results in fatigue clouding their judgement. Learn to take your time off and holiday as a way of working on your business, to relax the mind and bring about more creative and innovative techniques to improve the business. Even though your team is stable and resistant to change, most would flock to a charismatic leader who can create the most amount of impact with the least amount of change if the change in direction is delivered in gusto and passion. That is something that runs rampant in start-ups but becomes the norm too quickly, making work dreadful and all over the map. Mayweather stuck to his training regime and yet still rest enough instead of burning the candles out on both ends in order to win like McGregor does. Even before both men stepped into the ring, the match was already decided.



Always be learning

Never ever think you have made it, that is where kings fall


As much as it can be said about being in your own element, you need to keep learning and adapting the business. A business is not a static form, similarly in boxing. The golden age of boxing of hard hitters has come and gone, now is the age of speed and versatility. If social media sales is growing year on year at 10%, you might want to explore video marketing in year 3 or 4. But if it is growing year on year at 20%, then perhaps you want to consider learning the ropes in year 1 instead.

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