Last week, a section of the media carried a sensational feature of the recent New World Wealth report on super rich Kenyans.
I took particular interest because the story resonated well with a book I am reading— Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
Gladwell uses the epic story of David and Goliath to show that victory does not always go to the mighty—even the underdogs, misfits have a chance.
Packed with refreshing anecdotes of ancient military exploits where the seemingly disadvantaged vanquished the mighty using simple, but potent strategies, this book has priceless inspiration and lessons for any one in business or planning to venture into it.
Although some of the Kenyans in the super-rich club had the obvious advantages such as inheriting fortunes from parents or having good political connections, others led by Bidco CEO Vimal Shah allegedly the richest Kenyan made their fortunes by battling giants.
The story of Mr Shah is remarkable; how he battled Unilever, formally East Africa Industries at a time when no bank would entrust him with depositors’ money because they could not figure out how he would survive in a market dominated by a ‘giant’ with money and trusted brand name.
There are many business lessons to learn from Gladwell’s book as well as the story of Kenyan billionaires.
First, whether you are an underdog or misfit in the business arena, or think you are, you still have a golden chance of facing it off with giants.
Many people who desire to start their own businesses are held back by a feeling of inadequacy. They feel that they don’t have enough resources to beat much stronger competitors. Remember that David fuelled Goliath with what he had, just a sling.
Secondly, you cannot fight giants using the conventional means. Goliath was a real giant, a professional solder standing six foot nine, wearing a bronze helmet and full amour.
His amours and protection garments weighed several hundred pounds. On top of this, he was armed with a sword, javelin and a sword all optimised for close range combat.
David knew he could not fight Goliath conventionally. He avoided close range combat that Goliath was well prepared for. Instead, he used a sling whose skills he had mastered fighting lions and bears while shepherding his father’s cattle. In the market you cannot match giants by doing what they do.
Create your own rules and strategies that will give you competitive advantages.
Thirdly and very important, fighting giants require skills. If need be, break or redefine the rules of the game by doing things differently. Contrary to what many people propagate David did not kill Goliath on the strength of faith in Jehova alone.
David was not an amateur armed with faith and hope that will God all is possible. He was a professional slinger.
The book of Judges 20:16 describes a professional slinger as ‘‘one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.’’
God does not use amateurs to accomplish His mission. If he calls one, like He did Moses, he trains them first.
The lesson here is, to succeed in business use or develop a skill or competency that the giant does not possess and use it as your competitive advantage.
That giant you are facing may have billions in reserve, a national network of agents, a solid base of royal customers and a brand that is trusted like a gospel.
But as history bears witness, all giants have certain weaknesses that can be exploited by ordinary mortals. In business, discover this weak spot and attack it using your own improvised and perfected skills, you will definitely join the club of dollar millionaires.
This Article first appeared in the Business Daily