The pressure to be fresh and original can be unrelenting for small business owners who are trying to survive and grow their business.
There may come a point where small business owners ask themselves, ‘How can I borrow and learn from what other businesses are doing?
Some purists may argue that small business owners should stick to their own ideas and methodologies and not try to imitate others. They may argue that a small business owner, the ability to generate ideas, plan and do your own research is valuable, enabling you to develop professionally and be resilient.
To their way of thinking, merely imitating displays a lack of imagination and confidence, and leaves you vulnerable to inappropriate or unsustainable business practices because you are slavishly following those around you. Even if there might be some truth in what the purists say, can there be instances where being a copycat is the smart thing to do?
For start-ups, modeling your business on an existing one can make things easier – customers have had time to understand and accept the product or service, and shortcomings or flaws in the offering have been identified. The start-up can refine and improve the product or service, adopt a better marketing strategy (having seen what works and what does not), and develop a more robust business operating model. A small business owner who has struggled to find ways to incentivize good employee performance or attract customers may decide to try what another business has successfully done. Why suffer when someone else has already found a solution to your problem?
Provided there are no infringements of intellectual property rights, criminal activities or deliberate betrayals of trust, being a copycat does not pose any legal or moral dilemmas. Small business owners should be strategic, adopting the principles of ‘copy and improve’ or ‘copy and adapt’. Being a copycat does not mean you stop being discerning and applying your mind – you still need to be selective about what elements you copy, and how you go about it. Being a copycat can indeed be beneficial. Just be prepared for someone else to copy you.
Post by Fadzai Munyaradzi