April 05, 2006

Competition: Know Thine Enemy

It's a human tendency to hate that which is different - those who act a certain way, prefer one sports team over your personal favorite, vote for political parties contrary to your preference, or purchase products that you don't care for. In business, the highly competitive pressures to take your share of the market can lead to generalizations on who the competition is, what they stand for, what they represent, and how anybody who would choose to select or think about buying their products is either a fool, was tricked, or has signed an exclusive deal with the prince of darkness.

But, just as with Microsoft, as I mentioned in an earlier article, if you drill down through the global organization, you can find that your competition - the enemy - is comprised of individual human beings with similar desires to yours - to be happy, to be successful, and in most cases, to promote a product that delivers benefits to customers. While at the office, I can give you a long list of reasons as to why our product is better than the competition, and an extensive reference list for people who have chosen our route to solve their needs, I understand the human element, and through the years of going trade show to trade show, I have built up relationships with individuals who sell on the other side of the aisle - people whose products may differ greatly, but target similar markets, sometimes the same companies or opportunities. I recognize the faces, the mannerisms and the stories, and they often know people I know, or we may have shared experiences from different perspectives.

This week it was more evident than ever. Not only did I get the chance to talk to the CTO of one competitor and the Sales VP of another, but I was reunited with former colleagues of mine who in some cases I hadn't seen since 2002 or 2003, who were now working with the same gusto they once gave our business, but with new logos on their company-issued attire. In some cases, they've prospered at their new companies when they had struggled with us, and in others, they used success at our company to springboard to the next opportunity. This doesn't make them bad people, and it doesn't mean their technology is "evil". It's just different. These are people too - some driven by the almighty dollar, others for a new challenge or a new title, but still pushing forward nonetheless, and were I to see them as hell-bent demons, nobody would benefit.

In industries such as ours, the smallness of the market and the number of companies participating means you will most certainly see people again - as colleagues, competition or partners. To blow people off, and show your bad side in the name of competition cannot win long-lasting happiness and success. It's more than trading business cards and 10 minutes of your time - instead its about investing in the future. And if you just so happen to find out a tidbit that helps you compete today, go fight and win.

Listening to ''No One's Driving'', by Dave Clarke (Play Count: 6)

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