By Katy Moses, CPC
Competition is everywhere you look. From a very early age we are exposed to it in one form or another. Even in my children’s daycare, competition is glaringly evident. On a very large wall for all to see, each child has a craft with their name on it. This month, all of the kids have a snowman, at Thanksgiving it was a turkey. With good behavior, the children have an opportunity to complete the craft with an eye, a hat, a feather, or whatever required to be fully dressed. You get the picture. Each child knows exactly where they stand in the eyes of their teacher, and whether or not we admit it, each parent knows where they stand in the quest to have a perfectly well behaved child. (I am quite sure that there are many psychologists out there who would have a field day with this whole practice). My husband and I once had to deal with a “naked turkey.” The point is competition is everywhere; it’s how we interact with and handle it that matters.
Recently, I was following a LinkedIn discussion where a new small business owner was, for lack of a better word, bashing comptetitors in the local market. Here was a person who had quite a few people’s attention and an opportunity to spread the word about the services he can provide, but instead focused on what he perceives others can’t do. The end result was that he came off looking disrespectful, whiny, and insulting. After following this very lengthy discussion, I still have no idea why he may be better than his competitors and I am quite sure I would not recommend him. I am not saying that he should have been singing his competitors praises, but it does show a great deal of character and savvy to be able to acknowledge others success, and then gracefully describe why you are the better option.
The best example of a positive view of competition can be found in the Government Contracting community. I have clients who will compete with each other on one bid, while simultaneously partnering with each other to bid on a separate contract. My favorite term for this practice is “competi-mates”, and I truly believe that if we could all behave this way, the business world would be a much better place. I have seen CEOs of multi-million dollar companies having dinner together after one of their organizations had just beat out the other for a ten year, billion dollar contract. Now, I am sure that the one who lost was not having as good a time as the CEO who had just won, but at least he was trying to hide it and behave in a civilized manner. What they have figured out is that you should keep your friends close, and your competition even closer.
I am certainly not implying that we should all take our competitors out for dinner, but I do feel it is important to acknowledge others success and value. At the very least we should all remember the tried and true parental lesson of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I take great pride in that fact that our company, Professionals Incorporated, is considered a top competitor in our markets. Make no mistake, we work very hard to stay there, and part of that process is respecting and knowing your competition. Competition should make us strive to be better at what we do and raise the bar in our chosen industries. It should cause us to constantly try to be better. You can bet that after the lessons learned from the “naked turkey” incident, the snowman is always fully clothed, pipe and all.
Katy Moses can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org