Small to medium enterprise (SME) owners are in the perfect position to shake-up their industry status quo and challenge industry practices.

‘Disruption’ is a current business buzzword and while it shares common characteristics with ‘innovation’, the main distinction is that disruptors strive to turn an industry or traditional service upside down – think Uber, Airbnb and Snapchat as classic examples.

Disruptors create businesses, products and services that are better – less expensive and more creative, useful and impactful – and scalable.1 To small business owners that should all be sounding very familiar?

According to a recent article in My Business, by virtue of their size, SMEs are best placed to come out on top – and the corporate world should be afraid.2

With SMEs making up some 97% of all businesses in Australia and by far being the largest employers, they are increasingly being seen as the ‘growth engine’ of our economy.2

Versatility, adaptability and nimbleness are key traits for any business and the reason why corporates are being challenged by SMEs.

In the article, Professor Boris Groysberg, a specialist in business culture and talent management at Harvard Business School in the US, tells My Business, “The start-ups of today are the Googles of tomorrow”.

He suggests that SMEs can use their strengths – such as their nimbleness – to their advantage, as a means of outpacing bigger competitors.

“Some of my biggest learnings come from smaller companies. They have a very fresh perspective. They are innovating how we organise ourselves: teams, engagement, hiring processes, performance management and technology,” he says.

“All start-ups are more nimble and efficient in how they are organised.”

My Business also says that while corporates often talk about innovation, ‘as anyone working within them will attest, actually delivering innovation is a huge challenge’ because it is difficult to secure agreement on the strategy and delivery from across management, product development, IT, marketing, legal and sales etc.

While corporates are battling this internal red tape, SMEs are getting on with the job and taking their innovations to market.

Iconic entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson is the poster boy for disruption − his Virgin Group shaking up numerous established sectors from music and airlines to financial services and telecommunications.

In a recent Inside Small Business article about what small business can learn from Richard Branson, one of his key messages is: Do not be afraid to challenge the status quo.3

According to Sir Richard, the only way to set yourself apart from the crowd is to do things differently.

“Make it uniquely you and trust your gut. Don’t be afraid of the big players in your industry, they were in your position once too, and didn’t get to where they are now by not daring to be different.”3

“The important thing is that you instinctively feel you can do it a damn sight better than everybody else, you just get out and do it, and if it’s that much better, more money is going to come in than is going out,” he says.2

In many industries around the country, technology is rapidly levelling the playing field between large and small businesses in terms of connecting with prospective customers.

Yet due to their size, it is the latter that are better positioned to grasp the opportunity before them. The future for SMEs is looking bright indeed.

Top tips to help you become a disruptor

1. Learn to spot problems

Find everyday problems, annoyances, roadblocks or points of confusion, and consider how these might be solved. Even solving small issues can offer a huge opportunity.

2. Choose a problem that you’re passionate about

Commercial possibilities are not enough. The solution itself needs to inspire you. The desire for money or fame will not sustain you through the difficult ups and downs.

3. Share the solution

To make an impact, you have to make sure that the market understands the problem that you aim to solve as well as your unique solution. You must be able to communicate clearly and effectively, create an interesting story and an appealing video and learn to use social media to spread the message.

4. Build a team around you

Look everywhere for the right people. Do not just look inside your industry or the typical places. Find people smarter than you with complimentary skill sets.

5. Believe in – and sacrifice for – your solution 

Adapted from Entrepreneur interview with Elliot Weissbluth, founder and CEO of HighTower4