You don’t need to invent
the next iPhone

There's something you should know, by Suzanne Rab

There’s something you should know is our bite-sized business advice column. The amount of advice out there can be overwhelming, so we ask the professionals we meet along the way to tell us the one thing that they think every start-up needs to know.

Suzanne Rab is a legal legend, a published author and a senior advisor to corporations, regulators and governments. She’s seen businesses rise and fall.

What’s her one tip for entrepreneurs?

“Knowing the difference between a USP and a competitive advantage,” she said. “They’re similar. But not exactly the same.”

"A USP is the unique thing that you do that nobody else does. But you don’t need a USP to have a competitive advantage. That’s just something you’re better at than the competition."


"And that means you don’t need to be the inventor of the next iPhone to have a successful business."

She says that what you do need to do “is improve the state of the existing market landscape, by doing something better than your peers” – this was basically Richard Branson’s entire business model for Virgin. For you, “it might be adding functionality or value to a product or service”.

In Suzanne’s experience, mixing these two things up can cause problems for businesses. If your business does this thing that nobody else does, but that specific thing is not well received, then it’s curtains for your business. Plus, what if your business is unique at the beginning, but easily replicated? As soon as another entrepreneur jumps on the bandwagon, the USP you started with becomes null and void. “That’s why you need to focus on what gives you the edge in the market, and think about how you can hang on to that edge for as long as possible.”

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