How to Win Big in Fiercely Competitive Markets

If you are running your own business, chances are you are squaring up against a huge field of competition.

How to Win Big in Fiercely Competitive Markets

Just look at recruitment. According to data from Companies House, there are nearly 40,000 recruitment companies in the UK. That was back in 2018. With more than 9,000 new agencies registered in that year alone, the number will now undoubtedly be closer to 50,000.

Faced with such an overcrowded competitive environment, you would have to have been nuts to throw your hat in the ring, wouldn’t you?

Well, not if you have the right approach.

Lee Nania and I established Marlin Green in 2010 and set about building a business that today serves 17 European countries, has its headquarters in Shoreditch, its first international office in Dusseldorf and is forecast to turn over £32m – £40m in revenue this year.

Whilst many of our peers who set up at a similar time have fallen by the wayside, we have enjoyed consistent year-on-year growth in both revenue and net profit. We are now taking on the very largest and most well-established players in our industry.


Below are are 4 critical lessons we have learned along the way which will enable you to take on your market and win big.

Do the Hard Stuff

Traditional wisdom suggests that the quickest route to what you want is to take the path of least resistance. The belief being that with fewer obstacles in your way, you will get to your destination faster. However, in today’s ultra-competitive business environment, that advice doesn’t always ring true.

For example, when bet365 launched in 2001, much of their competition was taking the relatively easy road of replicating the offline betting experience online. They were doing what they had always done, just on a digital platform.

Seeing this as an opportunity to redefine the market and give users a more thrilling experience, bet365 took on the technically complex ‘In-Play’, which allows players to bet on each moment in a sporting event as it happens. By doing so, the company revolutionised the industry, became market leader and today is one of the most successful internet businesses in the world.

Equally, it would’ve been easy for us to set up a business that focused solely on UK Recruitment. When compared to servicing foreign markets, offering services in your home country surely would’ve be much easier in every regard.

Conversely, air dropping highly skilled IT talent across Europe, understanding and managing cultural, financial and logistical complexities is notoriously difficult. However, after noticing demand was both increasing and badly underserved by recruitment firms both here and across Europe, we saw a gap in the market. We saw an opportunity and decided to go all in.

Doing the hard stuff pays. As people, we are conditioned to do what comes easiest, but when you take on the hard stuff, you thin the field, become more visible and clear the way for market domination. 

Be Process Driven

Entrepreneurs can be a little cavalier. Often, they have a good idea but, in their excitement, they charge into the market giving little thought to process. That comes later once they have done a few deals and the money has started to roll in.

However, powerful processes are not a nice to have. They are a must have. It is essential to review and edit them often. The best processes are those that people can easily follow. They are short and elegant. Inefficient processes typically fill company handbooks that are then filed away in a bottom drawer forever and never looked at again.

Far from boxing your people in, clearly defined processes empower them to work autonomously with the confidence that their approach will deliver them the client whilst also giving the business the right result.

Build Speed into Your DNA

Speed is essential for success. To win in a fiercely competitive market, you must be better than your competition. Better means both more efficient and as is vital in fast paced markets, quicker.

Often, it is not about putting in additional processes, but getting behind the effective ones you have.

It is about ensuring the processes you implement remove the blocks that hinder your progress daily. Look at your market, investigate your approach, identify where the friction is and build processes that enable you to remove it and with that; deliver it faster.

Don’t Deviate

When constructing their proposition, entrepreneurs often suffer from two business breaking afflictions.

Firstly, either they overcomplicate their offering by continually adding bells and whistles. Or secondly, worried that they will be left behind, they are enticed away from their core competence by the promise of growth via new revenue streams. However, not having the correct diligence can have a detrimental effect on the company.

That is not to say that you must not remain nimble and continue to innovate. The problem is that each new area of focus means diverting time, money and energy from what you do best. It can also create confusion for the buyer who might struggle to understand who you are and what you do.

Conversely, when you choose a niche and commit to it, you clear the way for a simple, rapidly repeatable business model that can easily be scaled and deployed into new markets. In our own business, by not engaging at all in permanent recruitment and dealing exclusively in ‘project related’ contract recruitment, we have focussed all of our processes and methodologies to work to this end.

This has enabled us to maintain a ruthless focus on both our service offering and the markets we serve. We have produced a fine-tuned machine that has enabled us to achieve the results we have to date, and the critical mass needed for the continued growth at pace and further International expansion.

Toby Dixon
Toby Dixon

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