This is that 800 lb gorilla in your market. You think you have a better product and can adapt more rapidly than he can. You just need a small piece of his territory and the food that goes with it. You think he won’t even notice for a while and, when he does, he’ll want to buy you out for big bucks and make you a young millionaire.
Just remember . . . he didn’t survive this long, weigh 800 lbs, and be the strongest one in his market by accident. He will know about you earlier than you realize because he has resources that do nothing but protect his territory. He will allow you to feed from some of the food scraps in his territory, not because he doesn’t know you are doing it, but because it isn’t worth his time to stop you. If, however, you begin to move deeper into his territory and partake of his primary food sources, you will get his attention. Should that happen, he will test you to gauge whether you are a threat. Are you passing through or trying to stake your claim. He can’t maintain control of his territory by allowing you to exist unimpeded. If he does, there will be others and he will lose control.
If you aren’t a threat at the moment, he may leave you alone. If he believes you are a threat, here are the some of the possible outcomes.
- He could partner with you – Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
- He could buy you out – This could be good or bad.
- Big bucks and retire to the beach!
- Small bucks but enough to start your next BIG IDEA.
- Moderate bucks and you stay on to develop products for the 800 lb gorilla. Did you start your own company to work for someone else?
- He buys you out but leaves you alone to do your own thing and share the revenue. Benevolent Dictator.
- By the way, if he buys you out he may integrate your product into his product line (making you very proud and giving you bragging rights), or he may monkey around with it (following the theme) until it bears no resemblance to the original product, or he may just bury it to keep a competitive product from ever seeing the light of day.
- He sends his protectors and enforcers (otherwise known as lawyers) after you to make it difficult for you to survive. He’d rather force you to leave voluntarily so as not to create an uprising in his territory.
- He eats you and leaves your carcass on display to dissuade other would-be competitors.
While the product development, team building, and early success of a startup can be great fun, ego boosting, and positive, success in business typically does not come without experiencing the brutal realities of the free market. It is a jungle that will test your will to survive, your values and morals, your relationships, and your confidence.
THE TAKEAWAY – I tell you this, young entrepreneurs, because I want you to be ready for the challenge. Brutal honesty, focus and preparation will get you through it. It helps to have a warrior mentality about these things. Stay prepared mentally and physically, let the mission keep you motivated and positive, have a strategy but be prepared to abandon it and craft another depending on the battle field situation, trust your team, and do whatever it takes to live to fight another day.