Malcolm Gladwell‘s new book offers a fun read that’s full of interesting anecdotes. Your accounting firm can learn a thing or two from it as well.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giantsis the author’s most recent publication, and this little gem is chock full of fun stories about underdogs. We love reading these, because they satisfy something deep within us that wants to see the little guy win, the long shot come in first and the rejected become the idol. This kind of story bolsters our optimistic belief that no matter how hopeless things seem, we can rise to the top. In addition to the psychological soothing, it provides good old-fashioned entertainment. But there are some ideas in the book that can also help your accounting firm rise through the ranks. Do you want to make your firm more successful? If the answer is yes, you may want to embrace a few of the concepts Gladwell discusses to sneak up on victory from an unexpected angle.
- People love underdogs, as we just mentioned. So if you’re worried about being a small firm competing with established, popular firms that fill your niche you might as well admit your place and stake out a claim on underdog status. Why pretend you’re already the big player when you’re not? Approach your marketing and firm style from a place of reality, which means you’re small, motivated and not yet the first choice of most clients but confident you’re the best in your niche. Now go show a few people that motivation and confidence and watch what happens.
- Disagreeable means different. Gladwell writes of “disagreeable” entrepreneurs who don’t follow the established business paradigm. Making new rules in the marketplace isn’t automatically an etiquette flaw; it’s equally likely to be delightfully disruptive innovation that creates lasting change for the better. The companies that are willing to shrug off the established rules in favor of a new approach that’s never been tried are those that become hugely successful “out of nowhere.” That “nowhere” is somebody’s great idea and some firm’s willingness to give it a try.
- Big fish, small niche. Gladwell spends some time in the book talking about the benefits of being successful in a smaller setting as opposed to struggling in a larger, more competitive context. Your ultimate goals for your firm may involve massive growth or huge financial success, but no matter what they are, you’re most likely to reach the level of success you seek by refining your target niche down to a very specific one. Professional services firms abound. Be the one that specializes in serving a narrowly defined niche and you’re well on your way to becoming number one in your chosen market spot. From there, you can go on to dominate whatever new territory you choose.
Gladwell’s books include Outliers, The Tipping Point, Blink and What the Dog Saw. His fascinating insights on human thought and behavior are always thought-provoking and definitely worth a read. Grab a copy of his latest, if you get the chance, and read it with your accounting firm in mind. You might be surprised to find relevant themes that translate into a path to greater success for your firm. And if you do, please share any great ideas with us in the comments.