May 25, 2016

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A Barbour guide to business continuity

How Can Small Security Firms Compete with Big Business?

Competition in business, some would argue, is business, otherwise you just have a monopoly.

In all sorts of sectors small companies are trying to compete with larger companies to get a larger slice of the pie or even any slice of the pie. As a small company, there are clearly disadvantages about having limited resources but there are things you can do to compete.

All big companies were small companies once. This article touches on a few things you could be doing to increase your chances of getting that business.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and you may be doing some of them already, but for me they are at the core of being a small fish in a big pond. The ‘business as war’ analogy is as old as the hills but it does bring some key elements into focus and funnily enough, that’s number one on the list:

  • Focus
  • Web/Social Media
  • Flexibility
  • Partnerships
  • Accreditation/Market databases


A typical error of small companies is to try and do too much and be everything to everyone. You wouldn’t go head to head in open battle with a far superior force so don’t do it in business.
Focus on your strengths. You are agile and flexible with relatively low overheads.

The danger as a small company is that you try and do everything and get sidetracked. You want/need the business and you don’t care where it comes from.

Fine if it comes to you and you don’t have to do much to get it but this is certainly one area where clarity of purpose is an advantage. Be clear where your markets are. Look at where the opportunities are to create a niche to establish yourself before going after the big boys head on.

Be a specialist. Creating a reputation in a niche market is far easier.

Research who the best people are to speak to in order to be able to quote for work.

This is not always obvious. For example in building you might assume that architects would be the obvious people to target.

However, although on occasion it might be them specifying the solution, more often than not it is the M&E (Mechanical & Electrical) contractors. Once you have identified your market sectors and who you need to speak to, you need to develop a strategy and then stick to it relentlessly. Give it time.

Web/Social media

As a small company the internet is your best friend. Figures vary depending on who you speak to but up to 80% of businesses looking to purchase a product or service search the internet as their first port of call even if they have an existing relationship.
On the internet, people by definition are looking for what you are selling so if they find you the hardest bit of your work is already done for very little cost. If you don’t know how AdWords works find out and get on there.

Spend as much time and effort on your website as you can. It is your shop window and people make all sorts of subconscious assumptions in a ridiculously short time. Again estimates vary but you have between 6 and 15 seconds to capture your potential lead.

As part of being an expert the internet is a perfect platform. You can be your own publisher and write relevant articles on hot topics of the day. When you are writing such articles make sure they are as interesting possible and definitely not barely concealed sales’ pitches.

You will start to make a name for yourself on your chosen topics and gradually people will start to come to you for advice. Post articles on e.g. Linked In and Twitter will also help your website profile.


As a small company you can be flexible and fit in with your customers’ needs and requirements. Larger companies by their nature tend to do things in a certain way.

Respond quickly to enquiries and requests for information and quotes to get ahead of the game. You will be amazed how long many companies take to get back when asked for information or even quotes.

Keep an eye on the newest products and move quickly but also think ahead, long term. For example, in the accounting world Sage have been resting on their laurels for a long time but their legacy system is now under serious threat from Xero because Sage took their eye off the ball and thought their reputation was enough.


For any company cash is king but as a small company you are particularly vulnerable to the normal ups and down of work flow. Some months are busy others less so. A popular way to mitigate your risk is partnerships with other companies who can provide you with the expertise you require but you only pay for the resource you need when you need it.

This is easier said than done and finding the right partners is a time-consuming and tricky process. Partners need to have the same business ethos, they need to be trustworthy, since the last thing you want is your partners going direct to your customers and stealing your business. It’s a good and proven strategy but take your time doing your due diligence and don’t start working with them on the most critical job, start small so you can test the water and see if there is a fit.

Accreditation/market databases

There are many more smaller companies than larger companies of course so how do you stand out? We’ve seen that you can use the internet to your advantage. To a large extent the internet is the best part as it doesn’t care how big or small you are but there are other things you can do and these can help boost your web offering too.

Accreditation is one way to do this that can have multiple benefits. In the security industry in the UK there is the NSI ( You can put their logo on your website as a sign that you do good work but it is also a form of implied warranty.

This is just the first step however and many companies miss the opportunity that accreditation offers in making your sales’ pitch stand out. Make a point of highlighting the fact that you are accredited, list some of the benefits of it and what it entails but also ask the potential customer if any of the competition are also accredited.

It won’t win you the business in itself but it may well make you stand out. If a company hasn’t bought from you before the biggest factor in the decision is trust: Can they do the work? Of course the price has to be competitive but this is the reason the phrase ‘no-one got sacked for hiring IBM’ was coined so anything you can do to enhance that feeling that you can do the work and are worthy of the business the more likely you are to get the work.

In conclusion

So there are a few thoughts, as a small business ourselves we are constantly wrestling with all these issues. You only have so many resources and you need to be as efficient as possible.

But there are many opportunities out there. Companies get lazy, do poor quality work, rest on their laurels and you want to be there to pick up the pieces and if there is one place you can get the biggest bang for your buck it is the internet but even there use your money wisely and make sure it is working for you.

To find out how to gain an edge on your competitors, large and small, visit IFSEC International 2016, Europe’s largest annual security trade show, running 21-23 June at ExCeL London. Find out more details and how to register in the the box below.

Get your summer security fix in this essential free 'State of the Nation' webinar

Explore the state of security in the United Kingdom in this unmissable webinar led by industry titans Professor Dave Sloggett, Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter, TSI's Rick Mounfield, BSIA's Mike Reddington and Alex Carmichael of the SSAIB.


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