How the Little Guy Can Come Out on Top

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Starting a business requires a leap of faith every time. You have to believe in your idea, in your value, in your potential customers, and in the marketplace. And while competition is what drives better offerings, it can also seem extra daunting if you're a little fish in a big pond.


Researchers from the University of Nebraska and York University may have put their finger on a way to beat the odds, though. If you're a newcomer in an established industry, you might face powerhouse brands and mighty marketing budgets, not to mention years of entrenched relationships. Small and medium-sized businesses in those industries have a good chance of holding their own with a pretty simple move: collective action.

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According to coauthor Andre Maciel, "[F]irm owners form a strong sense of shared identity and pool their resources to jointly develop a market category in ways that benefit all of them. Their collective work ranges from exchanging critical economic resources to fighting together for more favorable regulation."


If this sounds familiar, that's because it does sound a lot like unionizing. (It's also the same principle undergirding the Leo Lionni classic picture book Swimmy.) Virtually every industry already has professional and trade associations, so it's not an entirely unknown concept in the working world. If you've got an unusual and profitable outlook on a sector, find the people who are in or close to your space. By working together, as the researchers put it, a rising tide can lift all boats.