Published on: November 9, 2021
by Michael Sansolo
Size can provide a powerful advantage in any form of business competition, but it offers no guarantee of continued success especially against smaller, more creative and more adaptable competitors. Apparently that’s true, even in the world of wrestling where brawn dominates.
The Washington Post ran an interesting story this weekend about how World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) - the absolute titan of its world - is being increasingly and successfully challenged by upstart All Elite Wrestling (AEW).
Now, to be totally transparent here, I am not even a casual fan of wrestling, pro, amateur or otherwise. But the story about this bout between WWE and AEW seems to provide a number of interesting avenues.
For starters, the upstart seems to be doing a good job of figuring out what it is and what it is not and recognizing that simple truth of business. As AEW honcho Tony Khan told the Post, “I don’t think you’ll ever please every wrestling fan, but if you can make most of the fans happy most of the time, then you’ll have a great fan base.”
I have to imagine a lot of business can relate to that quote.
And AEW’s approach is a reminder that in wrestling or business, the biggest opponent can still have exploitable flaws. For instance, AEW focused in on what apparently are key areas of viewer dissatisfaction such as shows that are too long and too predictable. Interestingly enough, AEW was able to get a lot of clues about this dissatisfaction by listening carefully to fan complaints on social media and podcasts.
So sure, no reader of MNB is going to be as big or powerful as Amazon or Walmart, but that doesn’t mean either company is perfect. Listening to customers might provide clues on areas of opportunity.
Most instructive might be that AEW apparently focuses on the action in the ring more than the theatrical drama outside the ring. And the upstart is putting a premium on finding wrestlers who are really good at their craft, rather same simply being good actors.
Not to make too obvious a point, but a parallel argument could be that food stores that focus on good food might find an advantage over companies with superior technology, for example. Logistics matter greatly, but at the end of the day people eat food.
To be fair, this wrestling battle isn’t a perfect example of challenges in the supermarket industry nor are the lessons of this scuffle perfectly applicable. Except that it is a stark reminder that the advantage of size can also become an Achilles Heel, especially if the behemoth loses sight of what customers really want or becomes complacent in any way.
In business, wrestling or life itself, adaptability and flexibility (as Charles Darwin pointed out a long time ago) can be the key to survival. Even when you are in the ring with a giant.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com.
His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.
And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.