Posted by: DrAlanRae | December 7, 2009

Business strategy and the excluded middle.

I wanted to expand a little bit on the last post – about the strategies of Monkeys and Gorillas.

I’ve become very aware of this recently as I’m working on two projects here that focus in on this. One is about how companies in the Aerospace industry are using social media to promote themselves – basically linked-in – while the other is about the workforce needs of the horticultural industry.

In practice we grow as businesses until we hit the next barrier.  This can be things like getting through a production or other capacity limit or it can be about becoming formal enough to trade with a much larger partner.

If your playing by monkey’s rules its easy – you just have to come to the notice of enough people who find you attractive and you do this by the time honoured methods we’re always going on about – getting a good story and then telling it often enough in the right places to get the interest, enquiries and sales that you need.

You can get a long way with this using web 2.0 techniques like blogs and social networks because they were invented b clever monkeys to tell their story effectively.

However once you get into the Gorilla’s world you have to deal with customers who

  • Want you to behave in a formal,  regulation compliant and extremely demanding way
  • Only want to deal with a few really large suppliers
  • Make it extremely difficult to build up good long term relationships with their procurement people (you know – that lot we used to call buyers)

The traditional networking rules of finding where the fish go and then hanging out there become much more difficult. For some industries exhibitions and conferences fulfill the role. In other industries you will need to go through a purchasing organisation – as many of the fruit growers I’ve been interviewing this autumn have to do.

However even there, there are signs that the logic of procurement will mean that ultimately the multiples will want to deal with the biggest grower/marketer left standing.

Definitely a case of  “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil …. because I am the biggest damn Gorilla in the valley”

However as small businesses we aren’t going to go there – we’re going either to find  a much smaller niche that we CAN dominate – or we’re going to have to learn to live like a monkey.

And being a big and successful monkey means identifying niches that the big players don’t want more than 50% of so you have the space to build the infrastructure you need to earn the living you want.

If it was easy we’d all be doing it.




  1. I like the last line, I’ve said it myself and it is So true. No room for whining in entrepreneurship. I visited your site the Intelligent Garden, cool idea. I had an interest in a produce market in Northern Mi, this fall and Wow. Produce is great place to be, we grow flowers but bought produce from an Amish auction about an hour away. It went well.

    thanks Joe

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