Place any two entities with similar interests or needs in the same space and you can bet your bottom dollar, competition of some sort will ensue.  That has been an unwritten law of nature since Biblical times.  Cain and Abel competed for the Lord’s approval; animals compete for food, water and mates; human beings compete for power, glory, material gains, attention, love and sometimes just for the sake of competing.  Nature, sports, regular life, business is filled with competition of some sort.

So if competition is inevitable, how do we deal with it?

Embrace competition: 

As much as many of us hate our pesky competitors, we don’t have the power to snap our fingers and make them disappear.  If one rival fades, three rise in their place – younger, fitter, stronger and more creative.  Do not pine to be a monopoly – it will not happen and even if it does, it is counter-productive.  Therefore, it is best to embrace competition.  Competition forces us to work harder, think smarter and be more creative.  Rivalry keeps us on our toes; it pushes individuals, companies and corporate bodies beyond their preconceived limits, keeps them hungry and stokes the fires of passion within.  The Bible says (Prov 27:17) that “iron sharpens iron”.  A sword is not sharpened by swishing it in clean air or repeatedly slicing a feather pillow.  It takes a repeated abrasion against a harder metal file or flint stone to regain the sword’s edge.  If you wish to remain sharp, improve constantly and not lapse into complacency, stiff competition is essential.  Embrace it!

Assess your competitors:

Sports professionals and teams spend hundreds of hours studying video recordings of their opponents’ games to decipher their strategy, pick out their strengths and weaknesses and devise a counter-strategy.  Cricket bowlers watch films of star batsmen to figure out their strengths and the chinks in their armor.  Large corporate companies employ market researchers to study the methods and products of their competitors before building or revising their own strategy.  This is an important first step as it allows you to position yourself for success and prepare counter-strategies where needed.  For example, if the market leader is a behemoth with major resources and brand recognition, it is very likely that they move slowly and have higher overheads making their products more expensive.  It is possible to be successful in grabbing market share from them by positioning yourself as a nimble, innovative lower cost alternative. 

Learn from the competition:

While assessing the competition, approach the exercise with the intent to learn from both their successes as well as their failures.  Avoiding their costly missteps and improving on their winning ways could save you a lot of time and money.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel if someone else has already gone through the trouble of doing so.

Deal ethically:  

Many sales people spend much of their precious customer-facing time bad-mouthing and down-playing the competition.  They go to great lengths to name the competition, list all their failures, drawbacks and paint a bleak picture to the client.  Don’t!  That is the quickest way to lose a customer’s respect and to give more publicity to your competition.  Your company pays you to promote their products – spend your time doing just that.  Explain why your product is superior and how your after-sales service guarantees the customer’s reliable operation and success.  Let the customer do their own due diligence.

It is also very important to deal ethically and take the high road with the competition.  Respect their intellectual property rights, do not poach their people or acquire confidential information to get an edge.  Also, adhere strictly to international compliance regulations covering anti-collusion, among others.  Reputable customers like to deal with reputable partners.  So, strive to be one and success will follow.

Competition is one of the key tenets of capitalism.  It makes us all better and more successful.  Run away from it and you will sink into mediocrity.  Face it head on and the rewards are many.  


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