Chapter 18 of Bootstrap Business begins today with not-so-common advice: Dance with the devil!
As a teenager, I played on a football team in Flagstaff, Arizona. Once, we played an away game against a team that didn’t seem at all motivated. The game turned out to be an easy win, and one of my teammates quipped, “I bet if we hadn’t shown up, they still would have lost!” He didn’t know how true his statement was. In order to truly test yourself and your new business idea, you need competition; you can’t win without it.
Several years ago, Rich and I both worked for Novell, a networking company that at one point controlled 80-plus percent of the market. In other words, it had no competition. Then Novell became complacent. And when the serious competition did show up, the company was far from prepared to take it on.
Most people are timid about interacting with competitors; even worse, many business owners think that they don’t have or even want any competition. If you use it to your advantage, competition keeps you hungry, honest, and forward-moving.
As the saying goes, “High tides float all boats.” When your competitors advertise their products, your business benefits from getting the byproduct of unexpected marketing. If you’ve positioned yourself correctly, when people look for your competitor’s product, they will likely also find yours. More than just benefiting from happy accidents, though, you must know your competitors’ strategies, their position in your market, and their weaknesses. Competition is a healthy part of the entrepreneur’s diet.
Rich thrives on embracing and enjoying competition. It shows up in all aspects of his life—from golf to work to siblings. He has mastered how to let it keep him sharp and focused. He also knows that when you dance with the devil of competition, even one misstep will allow it to dance all over you. You may think that you are dancing the tango only to suddenly watch your competitors cha-cha on by. You want to win, but you cannot win unless you compete and do it well.