Small, The Unfair Advantage (Underdogs Counterpoint)
Our last post titled Underdogs dug into some of the challenges of being a tiny company in a marketplace of giant brands. The cost and efficiency challenges are very real, but being small also has a set of huge advantages. There is so much we can do that they can’t!
Fast and flexible: Making a butter flavor was first mentioned a little over two months ago, and it’s shipping now. The process of idea, development, testing, refinement, and launch was incredibly informal and sleek. Testing consisted of us popping popcorn over a few lunches and seeing which bags were devoured by our crew of 5. A few weeks later we were buying the ingredients and making the first boxes. No meetings scheduled. No stakeholder conference calls. No buy in. No politics.
Unrestrained: We generally operate without the burden of convention. We don’t have a set of siloed departments looking out for their needs. We have C.V. in operations, Kevin in sales, and Kristy figuring out what’s next. Without distillation, filtering, or spreadsheet logic we are able to make things that are actually different. We were told by EVERYONE that we need to make a “flavor promise” on the front of our box. Without images of overflowing popcorn we were warned that consumers wouldn’t take interest. “This is just the way it’s done.” We didn’t buy it. Now we are the only item in the snack isle without a “flavor promise”.
Genuine: Recently we talked through the things that we think we’re do well. A bunch of little things were mentioned, but it all linked back to being transparent, honest, human. When something feels right, we do it. When we screw up, we talk about. If I want to say “shit” in a blog post, I can. We don’t have a marketing department. There isn’t a really a strategy. Our “angle” is to make sure that the things we make and the things we say reflect who we are.
I’m rereading the above, and I’m not sure the importance of this is coming through. Big brands would kill to be fast, unrestrained, and genuine. They have teams of manufacturing engineers trying make them faster and more responsive. They name conference rooms “ideation space” to try to coax their institutionalized team into thinking outside the box. They pay millions to ad firms to try to create a genuine connection to consumers. Many companies go as far as to create independent “Skunk Works” style teams to try to emulate small companies. They try to force it, but these things come naturally when you’re small.
So yes, we are a small company and we are exactly where we want to be!
(The photo is of co-founder Kristy downing coffee during an in store demo. It’s not really relevant, but then again, it kind of is…)