The Underdog vs. The Big Fish

I spend so much time trying to convince smaller contractors that it is ok to stay/be small, that I could write a book, but I don’t have time for that shit so you are getting it here.

F*** big…big isn’t such a big deal

Go ask some giant contractor in your market if he/she wants to be as big as they are today. I promise you they would tell you they yearn for the days when they were on the job site every day or they were getting their hands dirtier than they do.

Being smaller than the big fish, means being the underdog

The underdog is so much cooler than being the big fish in the pond. The big fish has lots of overhead, lots of inertia that make them slow and easy to catch by every other operator in the space.

All those trucks and payroll and overhead make them easy prey for small time operators who can win on margin alone. Everyone talks about quality craftsmanship and good customer service, but that’s what we all should be providing, so that isn’t a competitive advantage at all, it’s the ante.

Underdog status is a destination, not a journey

It’s ok to be small. The underdog has plenty of competitive advantages with consumers because, by default, people typically root for the little guy. The underdog also enjoys acceptance by the marketplace due to these factors:

  • Being small makes it easy to relate to people one-on-one.
  • The underdog can tell a better story or create a narrative that the big fish doesn’t get to participate in.
  • Being the underdog gives you the first-mover advantage as new products or developments happen in your vertical.

Most contractors are small shops. They either hire out subs, have a small team or do all the work themselves. The competitive advantage you have only comes out to play when you compare yourself against the big fish.

If you ignore the fish like they don’t exist, your advantage goes away, so always make sure you know what makes you better vs. the big fish and use that in your presentations. Always.

There are so many changes and improvements to products and service offerings these days that your head spins just trying to keep up.

While you the underdog, may not get the pricing power the big fish has, you are able to act faster while the big fish slowly rolls out new products or services, giving you a seasonal advantage on new offerings.

All in all, you can make a nice living being the small-time operator. You can choose to be the big fish if you want to as well. The point is, the big fish doesn’t have to be the result.

Darren Slaughter is the founder and president of, a digital agency focusing on website design, social media management, and content creation for home improvement contractors.