Competitors: Enemies or Not?

May 16, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that a business should want to crush and destroy all competitors. That may not be wise. Of course a business wants to stay in business long-term; wants to make money; and wants to provide good, well paying jobs to all who work there. But to do that by tearing others down instead of by building your own company up is the wrong way to look at it. It’s a bad attitude.

Jim Rohn says there are two ways to have the tallest building in town. You can tear all the other buildings down or you can build your building taller than anything that exists. If you decide on the former, you might get a building or two torn down because people are not paying attention, but about the third building, the owner is standing out front. He says, “I’ve heard about you.” Now you’ve got a serious fight on your hands. It will get worse with every building you try to raze. Meanwhile, your customers are suffering and defecting to your competitors. And you get a negative reputation as a wrecker or a destroyer instead of a positive reputation as a builder.

Don’t focus on your competition. Focus on your customers. Spend energy and time on what works. If you can treat your customers excellently and give them what they want, and your competitors can still be in business as well, then so be it. Get better and bigger to satisfy your customers, not to destroy your competitors.

Your competitors don’t need to be your enemies. If they are, it is because you don’t know them. There may come a time when the entire industry might need to act together to defeat stupid legislation or to educate customers about the products of the industry. Les Brown says there is an ancient African proverb: “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.”

If competitors fail because of their own incompetence, that is right. That is free enterprise. That is the capitalist system. But don’t waste any of the time, effort, and money you should use to please customers, get better at the way you do business, and create new products and services on trying directly to defeat your competitors.

If you succeeded in actually defeating all your competitors and no new competitors entered the market, your company would be a monopoly. What happens to monopolies every time? They get fat, stodgy, and mediocre. Where there is no competition, there is no excellence. You shouldn’t want to overcome all opponents.

Politicians want to discredit their opponents and make them look like fools. For someone who should be willing to be a servant of the people to instead try to be king and cut off other’s heads is focusing entirely on the wrong thing. How unfortunate that we elect people with this attitude. People who should focus on doing the right things for the people who have elected them, instead spend their time, effort, and money trying to destroy other people. They focus on the wrong thing. And we all get the short end of that.

Please don’t ever think I would not have sports teams decimate their opponents. That is their service for their customers. The more they trounce their competitors the better business they do. When I went to college, I bought season football tickets for 10 dollars. That was for all home games. The next year, the team went on a winning streak. They lost 1 game that year and were undefeated the next year. They lost only 4 games in three years. We fans were ecstatic. The cost of season tickets went through the roof, and were hard to obtain. In sports, beating the competition and sending them home defeated is the point.

In business and politics, the more you fight with your competitors, the more your customers are turned off. People don’t like contention. It can feel as uncomfortable as a married couple openly fighting at a party. Everyone just wishes they would go away. If you fight with your competition, everyone will wish you would go away, and if you won’t, they will go away from being your customers to make you go away.

Weldon Smith is the author of the book True Leadership and False Counterfeits, which explains what True Leadership is, and why any other idea of what Leadership is does not work. Furthermore, Leaders are not only those who have followers. Every success in every aspect of life is the result of practicing true Leadership.

Please visit my website at to subscribe to my free newsletter or to read my book.

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