David and Goliath (Turning Weaknesses into Strengths)

Hopefully you guys still read actual books. I really try but I just can’t make it happen. I have a hard time sitting still for that long. I do listen to at least four audiobooks a month and at least 20 hours worth of podcasts a month.

One of my favorite books I have read recently is Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath. According to Gladwell we got the whole David versus Goliath thing all wrong.

Goliath never had a chance. He just had no shot. My father is a minister so I know the story very well, but not the way Gladwell tells it.

According to Gladwell it wasn’t a fluke. 100 times out of 100 the little shepherd boy beats the giant because that overgrown hillbilly would never have a chance to get his hands on David. No one had the vision to see that. Not the king, not the rest of the cowardly army that wouldn’t dare to face the giant. Only David.

So then the story goes that the king relents because doesn’t have a choice. All his other champions are chicken hearts that only see a huge giant with a huge spear and a huge shield. But then he tells David to at least wear the king’s armor, but of course David knows that’s ridiculous. He has to fight his way. He has to use his sling and some stones. He has to rotate his sling 5 times a second before he launches to get the stone up to speed of a modern day .45 caliber bullet. He can’t do that with some fancy heavy armor. So he shakes his head and walks down the hill to face Goliath.

All Goliath and everyone else on that battlefield saw was a size difference. Goliath was big and David was small, so Goliath will win. Except he didn’t. It wasn’t a bug to be small and quick, it was a feature.

Size is still all a lot of people still see today. I can beat Amazon and Walmart and Barnes and Noble and anyone else and so can you. Because I am a relatively small business that can adjust and adapt very quickly to changing trends, I can bob and weave and run circles around larger companies.

When things change we adjust, but larger companies don’t have that ability. It is like trying to slow down a freight train. It can happen, but it takes time. That’s why there are so many inefficiencies in business. And the larger the business the more inefficiencies.

Even better news for most of you, it is all relative. So to a large corporation I seem like a featherweight. No meetings, no memos, just action.

But for folks that are starting their businesses or are solo operators I’m the bumbling Goliath. I can’t track my items like you can. I never even see 99% of the books that are listed or shipped or sorted for our wholesalers.

I see high level numbers and make decisions based on that. My guys let me know how new loads look. I used to be able to run a few thousand pounds of books from new sources with the guys but now I don’t have time. I have to wait until it’s all processed to see what’s going on.

In fact I’m on an airplane heading back home from a conference in Orlando as I write this on my iPhone. I have a staff in place that I trust but I haven’t seen a book or ran the numbers on the material I have been purchasing for 10 days.

Many of you guys know every book on your shelves or are just starting and will treat your books like children (until you expand out of that phase). I cannot compete with you on the details you can give to your customers on every listing and I can’t maximize revenue for every book like you because I simply don’t see them. You will beat me every time for the customer that cares about super informative listings and will pay more for them. I don’t even have a chance.

It is all relative but the good news is that the smaller you are the better you can adapt and the more bumbling oafs you can drop with a sling.

It all comes down to the cost of information. Information gets more expensive the more people and systems that are communicating. If you are a solo operator then information, in this context, is free. You know every item you bought and why. You will be to tell how each sku performs and what to stock in the future. With books in particular you know which sources are most profitable and can spend your sourcing time accordingly without meetings or charts or graphs. You just know.

In my company that isn’t the case, but I have a bird’s eye view and the number of people that need to be in the room to make these decisions fit on one hand.

For Walmart though, I can’t even imagine. So go out there and knock down some giants with a sling.

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