Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee: Small Business Tips From Muhammad Ali

Jul 13, 2016 5:01:39 PM

If you ask anyone to name the greatest boxer of all time, 9 times out of 10, you’re going to get Muhammad Ali as the answer. The 10th person is either dead or from another planet.

Here’s the thing about Muhammad Ali though, he wasn’t the biggest or the strongest fighter. But what he did have was this amazing fighting style that combined superior hand speed with superb reflexes and agility.

He had a left jab that would come from unseen angles and then a devastating right hook. Combined with the ability to get inside of his opponent’s head and he was virtually unstoppable.

The thing about boxing is that it’s like chess. It’s understanding your competition’s strengths and weaknesses – and then looking for opportunities to be a threat.

Now you may not be lacing up a pair of gloves and stepping into the ring, but every day you are facing competition in your business and I hope to give you some renewed inspiration in facing those challenges.

Just before his fight with Sonny Liston back in February of 1964, Muhammad Ali’s uttered his most well-known phrase:

'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can't hit what his eyes can't see’

An apt description of his fighting style, Muhammad Ali had superior hand speed combined with superb reflexes, agility, a left jab that came from unseen angles, and then a devastating right hook. He wasn't the biggest or the strongest, but he knew how to get inside of his opponent's head.

Boxing is sometimes called “the sweet science.” It’s not just two guys in a ring swinging at each other. It’s chess. It’s strategy. It’s understanding your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and finding opportunities to be a threat.

How does this relate to marketing?

The thought of going toe-to-toe with your biggest competitor(s) is intimidating, especially with all of their considerable advantages glaring right back at you: name recognition, staff size, finances, marketing budget, etc.

But speed, flexibility, and good footwork are the keys to going up against a powerhouse. Here's a breakdown Muhammad Ali’s famous line into small business tips to help you face your toughest competitors.

"Float like a butterfly,"

Larger companies are often too massive, too slow, and too lazy to keep up with the innovations and changes in technology. They’re often too entrenched in the old school to realize that they should've moved up or down a weight class a long time ago. So here’s what you can do:

Embrace change and don’t be afraid to pivot.
Don't stand in one place if things don't seem to be working out. Sometimes, in order to succeed, you may need to switch things up. That could be in the form of moving out of a certain niche or getting rid of certain clients.

Reject the concept of “we’ve always done it that way”.
The way you've always done it is only going to give you what you've always had. Don't be afraid to try new things.

Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods.

"Sting like a bee,"

Larger companies tend to have massive egos and be dismissive of things taking place beneath their noses until it’s too late. A big buzzword you’re hearing a lot of today is “disruption”, and it’s because smaller entities are transforming their industries in incredible ways. Here’s how you can too:

If you see an opportunity, don't be afraid to take it.
The worst type of action is inaction. You can always learn from a mistake or recover from an error, but it's much more difficult to recover an opportunity that's been lost.

Focus on your business and addressing your customer's needs.
Don't obsess about your competition. Unless they're going out of their way to impede your ability to service your clients, be as busy as bee when it comes to building and developing relationships with your clients.

“…his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see"

Here’s where we come back to that idea of “seeking an opportunity to be a threat”.

Larger companies often rely upon their heavyweight status and how "things used to be”. But the internet and technology have changed all of that –  that’s going to allow you to build and to grow.

Serve the underserved
As a smaller business, you have massive opportunities to go after targeted audiences to whom you can provide a deeper level of service.

Keep moving forward
Never settle for mediocrity. Push yourself to be better than yourself and you'll always be a champ.

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. -- Muhammad Ali

Next Steps...

  1. Purchase an Insight Assessment so you know exactly where your website, SEO, and social media marketing rank next to your competitors
  2. Download this FREE Buyer Persona Template so you know exactly who to target
  3. Weigh-in in the comments section below and let us know how you’re facing your toughest competitors
Ali J. Taylor

Written by Ali J. Taylor

Ali is a certified Inbound Marketing professional, graphic designer, web designer, front-end developer, and promotional products specialist, with the ability to see beyond aesthetics to connect marketing and branding strategies with concrete business goals. He creates and tweaks WordPress sites and is our go to for HubSpot COS sites.

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