Mutually Assured Success
Are we in the Age of Competition? Collaboration? Conflict? Cooperation?
If you ask me, it can be all of the above — depending on how you choose to position yourself amidst the chaos.
Competition always has been (and always will be) present in our world, particularly in business. When it comes to building something great and making money, it’s easy to fall prey to the assumption that someone else doing better or having more means you are doing worse or having less… but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Potentially unpopular opinion: realistically, there is plenty to go around, and someone else doing great things could actually help you do great things too.
Let’s take the internet for example. There are countless huge corporations who are very successful at whatever it is they do. Google/Alphabet. Alibaba. Facebook. Amazon. Do they see each other as competition? Of course. Are they competition for smaller companies with similar offerings? Definitely. But should those small businesses shut down because they can’t “compete” with a huge company like Amazon?
I vote no.
Utilizing the competition
While there is approximately a zero percent chance that the global economy will ever nicely divide itself up so as to remove competition entirely (and I am not asserting that it should), it is definitely possible to reevaluate how we view the ecosystem of business in which we currently reside.
Many of my clients over the past few years have been startups or small businesses, and the benefits I’ve seen them receive from the existence of “the big guys” are innumerable. Using services offered by these experienced corporations can be incredibly helpful, and saves valuable time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
Let’s return to the internet example. Google and Facebook have revolutionized Pay-Per-Click advertising and have made it accessible to even the least tech-savvy SMB marketers all across the world. While it takes some time to learn the ins and outs of each option (or to get certified, in the case of Google Ads), the overall process is fairly straightforward and far easier to implement than if each marketer had to come up with their own PPC advertising platform.
Even if there are certain aspects of Google’s business that are direct competition for a specific SMB, they can still draw immense benefits from Google’s existence.
Coexisting with the competition
Although it is definitely complicated to compete directly with an established corporate giant, when a SMB has a specific niche and product/service offering that they do really well, then that competition won’t always be as intense.
It’s easy to see how having a target market of “everyone” is not realistic. When companies narrow down their niche and focus on attracting the right customers (and not just any customers), then not only are they bound to be more successful, there’s less likelihood of being in that extreme, ultra-direct rivalry with another player.
Others may disagree on this point, but I truly believe that if your offering is not the best fit for the customer, then both sides will benefit by letting them go to someone else.
Competition… for the betterment of all
This could easily fall into an argument on the pros and cons of capitalism, but let’s keep it high level with an easy example.
If you’re anything like me, you will always get the best workout from either 1) going to classes of some kind or 2) working out in a place with other people present. For me, it’s not necessarily even that I feel the need to compete — yoga is not really a “competitive sport” — but just that the presence of others pushes me to do my best and go at it harder than I would on my own.
I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by many people, and it holds true in the business world as well. While it may be difficult to see how fierce competition with another company is helping anyone, think of it from the customer’s perspective. If there was only one business attempting to do what you do — yours — then you would not have much motivation to continuously innovate and improve for your customers. However, with multiple players on the court, you have no choice but to keep aiming higher, or you’ll lose everything (and everyone) you worked for.
In this game, the customers win. The companies vying for their money and attention continue to one-up each other, creating an environment with high-quality options and better value for all. When we compete, we in turn make the market a better place.
Whatever age we are living in, there are endless opportunities to cooperate, compete, collaborate, and coexist. All of these lead to better offerings for customers and a better marketplace within our economy. Regardless of who “wins” in the competition of business, we can create success stories for our customers — and we can do it together.