Scaling

Gary Turner, co-founder and UK managing director at Xero, on how you can scale your tech business in the face of the competition.

No matter who you are, what you are trying to sell, or who you are trying to sell to – you will always have competition. For any small business owner scaling up against a highly competitive landscape, this might seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.

We grew Xero by viewing competition as an opportunity. By seeing how other businesses ran their operations, we were, and still are, empowered to work harder and smarter. But at the same time, we ensure that we walk our own path and don’t get distracted by comparison, which enables us to offer the best customer experience we can to our customers. Here’s what I’ve learnt along the way – to help others compete at the right scale:

Obsess about your organisation and your customers, not your competition

You can’t entirely ignore competitors but you’d be surprised how many organisations are crippled by OCD, Obsessive Competitor Disorder. I’m quite often asked who I fear as a competitor, and taking care to not sound arrogant about it, I usually answer “Nobody.” Not because I’m a chest-thumping, war-painted delusional but because ultimately you’ll find that the most likely determinants of your future success actually reside inside your firewall, not outside.

Trust your instincts

A lot of the decisions I’ve made at Xero were based on gut feelings. You may see a competitor launch something that you have thought about doing already. Think back to why you didn’t launch whatever it was first time round, and don’t be bound by what others are doing.

Be confident in your convictions. Think about why you launched your business in the first place, and spend the time intelligently mapping out how you can strive forward and develop your product/service. Be prepared to fail and don’t be afraid to drop an idea that doesn’t work.

Your competitors are usually not smarter than you

Unless you’re crazy (or smart) enough to want build a start-up to compete with Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence division, your competitors won’t have your individual experiences, values or your own perspectives on what great looks like in your industry. Impostor Syndrome, the notion that everyone else is smarter than you or that you’re somehow now qualified to be doing what you’re doing is more common than you might think. And your competitors will have it, too. So, plough on and do your best work!

Tap into what it is your customers want

Your customers wants and needs should be paramount to the product you deliver. Whether it’s via an online survey or a focus group, make sure you know what makes your customer base tick – which will help you win over the customers of your competitors too.

Use the right tools

Using the right tools and having a savvy financial advisor can separate you from your competitors. There are countless tools out there for your business ranging from cloud software to AI, and it’s down to you to utilise the most cost-effective choices. The best way to ensure you’re being smarter with your money than your competitors is to work with financial advisors. Trial and error is a good way to learn, but why make errors when you can work with someone who can help you succeed from the get-go?

Accountants can survey the field of software tools and find you a package that best suits your needs, and help you to use that tool the most efficiently. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – it might be the difference between you and the competition.