We do not like competition. They are annoying. They give us trouble. They are a real 'pain in the neck' (or elsewhere).
At least, that is what people say.
I do not know the top management at Apple or at Boeing. However, I suspect that they are not especially happy that they have strong competition. But, they should be.
“That's crazy”, you say. “I don't want competition. I want to squash them. I want to win.”
But, it is precisely because of competition that you can win (maybe). Competition validates what you are doing right. Competition pushes you to do better. Competition gives you ideas.
Take the example of the smart phone. Apple comes out with the iPhone and makes a success of it. With that, others see what can be done and come out with their own offerings – some not so good, some rather good. Each different in some way. Each showing what can be done. The competition is showing what can be done and pushing Apple to do better. The result is the advancement of technology and the development of better products.
The same is happening in the commercial aviation industry. Boeing is, maybe, not very happy about Airbus. (I drafted this while on an A380.) The competition is really tough between the two companies. But, it is precisely this competition that pushes Boeing to differentiate and to develop the B787 'Dream Liner'. That development was not easy. However, the result is a stronger product family for Boeing – and better choices for us.
When we do not have competition, life is too easy. It is too easy to stay with what we have and not work on advancements. We saw this in the companies of communist 'managed economies'. Without competition, they just stayed doing what they were doing. There was no reason to do otherwise. It was the people – the customers – who suffered with increasingly obsolete products and poor service.
This competition can come from new technologies. The Internet and electronic media is causing an upheaval in the publishing industry – newspapers, magazines, and books. This is showing what can be done. The established companies need to react. We have seen the same thing with the radical change in the music and film industries.
Yes, there is the risk that the competition might win – especially when we come out with a new product idea and there are sleeping competitors who have stronger capabilities and more resources. You may remember the story of Snapple Beverages. They built a business and a reputation with their funky fruit mix drinks. Then they perfected the process of bottled flavored ice tea. Consumers liked it and their business took off. However, with that, the company that had been a niche player and too small to be noticed by the big guys suddenly got attention. With their success in bottled ice tea, they essentially poked a stick in the ribs of two sleeping bears – Tetley and Nestlé. The market entry by Tetley and Nestlé validated the idea that Snapple had launched. (However, Tetley and Nestlé had much greater resources and took the market.)
When you gain market success in a new area, be you Snapple or Apple, you have proved the concept. Your success gets attention from others and they jump into the market. The race is on. May the best team win.
This is all normal – regardless of the industry that you are in and regardless if you are in a physical product or service business.
So, even though you may not be happy with the moves of your competitors, I say rejoice in their moves – and especially their successes. (Yes, I know that you are gritting your teeth.) Their competitive moves are validating what you are doing. Their competitive maneuvers are testing new ideas – some of which will work while some may not. Their competition is pushing you to do better and that will be better for you.
Yes, rejoice in your competition. It is because of them that you will be better. And, that will be better for all of us.
Mark Louis Uhrich
Maisons-Laffitte, France, 28 August 2012
©Copyright Mark Uhrich