No one likes competition – we all would love to run monopolies. But unless the monopoly is mandated by the government and is in a space that is impervious to disruption, competition is inevitable. There are always going to be other entrepreneurs working to make things better – and therefore switch away one’s customers to their product or service. So, competition is the reality of business. It is what makes the world a better place.
We are taught to compete from early on in our life. We have to compete in school. We compete in college. We compete for jobs. We compete in the workplace. We are made to think of it as the “rat race.” Is competition really that bad? No. If we think back to our childhood, competition is what pushed us, made us study that much harder. We did not speak negatively about those we competed against – in fact, some of them were our best friends. Competition is what we liked because it made us better.
And yet, in the marketplace, we tend to think disparagingly about competition. We think our product is the best, and if we are winning it is because others must be doing something not in making with the spirit of the game or even using unfair practices to win. “Oh, they got that contract because their investors knew each other.” “They spend so much on marketing because of their VC money.” “They must have paid a kickback to win that account.” “They undercut us and took the order at a loss.” Very rarely do we acknowledge that the competitor won because they had a better product – it is what the customer wanted.
Once we can face up to that reality, competition can make us better. We can learn from them – just like we learnt from our friends in school. Competitors do not have to become enemies – we may be on different sides of the table, but we both have a common goal: to deliver more value to the end customer. Whoever is perceived to deliver more value wins. When we lose an order, instead of blaming external factors, it is good to introspect and ask: why did we lose, and what can we do better?
The products that we sell today are outcomes of decisions we made in the past. If we are failing to win, it is because of some of the options we chose and which perhaps were not the right calls. Business is an infinite game, which means that the future can be changed in our favour – as long as we can learn from the past mistakes and do the necessary course correction. In this journey, use competition as teachers – there is nothing wrong in learning from them and even imitating their techniques. To succeed in business, pay attention to the competition. As Simon Sinek puts it, “We have to stop thinking of other players as competitors to be beaten and start thinking of them as Worthy Rivals who can help us become better players.”