Saturday, December 17, 2011

The enemy: Embrace or dispatch?

Competition and Competitors.  It's been a topic of conversation at our TAB Board meetings in recent weeks.

While there are as many different views on the subject as Baskin-Robbins has flavors, they often settle into two main camps:  friend or foe.

Here are two favorite quotes that sum up those competitive mind-sets:
  • "I will destroy my enemies by converting them to friends." - Maimonides
  • “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” - H.L. Mencken.

In reality, it's a little less sinner or saint.  Most of us belong to trade associations or professional groups where fraternization is not only encouraged, but mandated.  Many of us also get work or referrals from within our industry, often from competitors.  "Coopetition" has become a standard business practice.  And if you have a sale as the exit plan for your business, your most likely buyer is a competitor.

One of the legends of the industry I grew up in had a standard practice of lunching with his competitors on a regular basis...he figured there was enough business for all, and that each of the firms were struggling with the exact same issues.  As a result, he built not only a business, but a legacy.

How do you deal with your competitors?  Do you treat them as the enemy, view them as irrelevant, tap their brains for knowledge, keep them at arms-length?

Do you keep to the advice of Don Corleone?  Or do you have a Blue Ocean Strategy approach?

Today's competitor may be tomorrow's client, or your next CEO.  In an ever-more networked, inter-connected and constantly-evolving business economy (especially in a local or regional commercial ecosystem), strategic cooperation can maximize value in a way that a winner-take-all mentality cannot. 

Besides, spitting isn't hygienic.

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