Backwards In High Heels

Famously said of Ginger Rogers: She did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels.

Not so different from boutique firms and independents competing against the big guys. Like Fred and Ginger, the best make it look effortless while working constantly on their footwork.

The key is to play to your strengths and highlight the things you deliver that the global behemoths can’t touch. For example:

Make technology work for you. Gone are the days when big meant the best technology. Small means nimble (not to mention you can squeeze a nickel until the buffalo screams.) Embrace new (cheaper) technology while the big guys waste months hammering it out in committee. You—if you’ve got the chutzpah—can now be first to market.

Inject your personality. You can afford to be a little cheeky in order to stand out. Don’t fall into the trap of saying “it’s our service, our people, our technology”. Blah, blah, blah. Show them instead. Let potential clients see you and your team as real people. Demonstrate who you are and what they can expect from you.

Put your stamp on everything. Whether you work solo or lead a group, make sure your beliefs and practices are woven into everything you do. Proposals. Social media interaction. Blogs. Referrals. Billing. Making calls. Responding to help requests. High touch means high regard (and deeper relationships).

So give it a try: release your inner Fred or Ginger.


  • Perry

    Great analogy.
    As a new e-publishing business I have to constantly remind myself that I'm lucky to simply have to start a business with a new cool technology. The traditional publishers have to dig in and protect their old model and do the committee dance to make the new technology work in their world/mindset.
    In a difficult business it's nice to have that little reminder that I have an advantage.
    Keep dancing.

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Exactly Perry. You and your business are the perfect example of what is possible today. Enjoy the dance!

  • Anonymous

    You're last paragraph is spot-on Rochelle. You can always tell when you have gained the trust within the relationship when people speak with you to ask for your opinion or advice, even if its for matters not concerning your products and/or services… :?)
    Tom Napier

  • Anonymous

    My favorite show lately is The Next Food Network Star. Much of what you share here are the same ideas they keep drilling the contestants on – be nimble and creative, true to who you are, decide what is your theme and stick to it.

    One of the guys who was asked to leave last week took until recently to decide what his theme would be for a show. It was too little, too late. Each week he was trying to be someone different! The one who left this week could not / would not adapt to the challenge and kept doing what she was comfortable with to her detriment.

    dogear6 (Nancy S.)

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Great point Tom–don't you love it when they ask your advice about other things because of the trust you've built up?

    And Nancy–that is a terrific example, thank you for sharing it. It helps to see it play out on screen…..

  • Anonymous

    Hi Rochelle:
    Great post:

    Independents can feel worn down sometimes because they're facing superior firepower from big competitors.

    You have just reminded them that they don't have to feel second best.

    With today's tools, virtual workforces, and nomadic offices, they can maintain a guerrilla campaign that matches, and often beats the big guys.

    Big companies have tended to engage other big companies, but are changing in today's more nimble world.

    That means opportunity for the quick and the smart!

    Tony Wanless

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Thanks Tony–perfect times for the "reinventionist" in all of us!

  • Liz Guthridge

    Love this post, Rochelle! So true on all fronts. I continue to be amazed how the tide has changed on the technology front. Small businesses and consumers have so much more advanced technology and cool applications at our fingertips than the big companies.

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Thanks Liz! I love how technology has broken down the barriers and allows we independent folk to compete alongside the global giants…

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