Love Thine "Enemy"! It's Good Business!

Snow covered fields at the farm

Oddly enough, I’ve run into two situations in the last 24 hours where someone wanted to restrict the activities of a competitor relative to seminars I was giving or products I was developing. It’s a position that I adamantly oppose on both moral and commercial grounds.

At the top of my business priority list, I want my overall market to grow by leaps and bounds. My market share will go down (It was about 100% after In Search of Excellence, when I was more or less the only public “management guru”), but my revenue will soar—the “bigger pie” axiom.

In short, I want my competitors to thrive. And I welcome their presence at my events. I go so far (see our “Cool Friends” interviews, for example) as to enhance their careers!

Does all this suggest an altruistic streak? Perhaps, but I actually think mostly not. I think that when one badmouths one’s competitors or tries to limit their activities, the “word gets around.” And one develops a reputation as prickly and egocentric—and, well, as a selfish jerk.

More important, my only effective long term defense (think Apple) is to do better and different work—and earn and retain the custom of those who would engage me.

In the original glory days of IBM, one of the legendary Thomas Watson’s Golden Rules was “Thou shalt never badmouth a competitor.” In fact, to violate this rule was a no-debate firing offense. As IBM struggled in the eighties, the rule slipped into disuse, and the company’s reputation suffered as a result. Back to my basic premise, IBM’s real problem was the loss of product distinction.

I come down hard on Mr Watson’s side. It is my goal—selfishly, actually—to be a highly regarded member of my professional community. Speaking crudely, I think that is an incredibly strong and sustainable competitive advantage. And, yes, I bloody well do want to win more than my fair share of business.

Your opinion?

[Photo above: Winter. Vermont. The real thing. Temperature 7AM, 2 degrees F.]

Tom Peters posted this on December 8, 2006, in Strategies.
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