Competing with the wrong people may be seriously harming your business. Winning in the wrong situation does far more harm than good.

You cannot simply ignore the state of the economy. Business is tough. But you cannot focus on the down-turn. You must fight to gain market share.

You gain market share in two ways: 1. You take business away from your competitors by out-performing them. 2. You work to increase the total market.

I want to deal with number one in this piece. We’ll look at growing the total market in the next release.

You obviously understand what it means to take business share away from your competition. You can do that by cutting your price which is the easiest but dumbest way. You can offer superior service which in turn builds a loyalty and ‘buzz’ for your business. When working to improve service, it must be constantly reinforced that service at your company is everyone’s job.

For example, if a customer calls asking for product information, is it better to refer them to your website where information abounds or to email them specific information they are seeking?


Do both. “I’ll email you the details so you don’t have to look for them and I will include some links to pages that may be of help to you.” That’s service. Providing great service is not about getting that guy off your to-do list. Great service is about surprising the prospect or customer with, need I say, great service.

So what do I mean about competing with the wrong people?

Internal competition is harming many businesses.

I’ve noticed a serious decline in the quality of service delivered over the past six months. It’s as though most companies don’t want more business! I could list specific examples but that would embarrass companies like FEDEX. So I won’t do it.

Here’s the problem with internal competition. The new guy in shipping sees a way to improve the shipping process. He takes his suggestion up with the shipping manager. The shipping manager resents the guy new guy telling him how to do things better so the idea is squashed on the spot with a comment like, “we’ve thought of that before and decided against it.”

There is a lot of this going around. People come up with ideas, good ideas, but someone kills those ideas out of fear. They fear looking inferior to the one suggesting the idea. They fear a change in relationship to the one suggesting the idea. After all, if the new guy in shipping has better ideas than the long-time manager, doesn’t that make the manager look bad? Killing the idea on the spot isn’t going to make the shipping manager look bad. Who will know?

The new guy won’t take it to the top unless he’s an unusually excellent new guy. But if he does take it to the top, you won’t recognize him as an excellent new guy. Rather, you’ll see him as a pain who takes up your time and won’t stay in line. You’ll direct him to take the idea up with his supervisor. Don’t want this new guy making you look stupid.

The point is, there is so much fear in businesses of looking stupid or being shown up, very good thoughts and ideas are being tossed out with no consideration or buried in endless memos.

You have no idea how much of this is going on in your business. Fear keeps people quiet. And you have no idea how much this fear is costing your business. The graveyard doesn’t speak.

Sales is running a magazine ad. The secretary suggests trying Google Adwords to supplement the advertising. NO! What if the online ads outperform the magazine ad! The horror of it all!

Marketing is running a direct mail campaign. Sales suggests putting a product video on YouTube. No way!

FEDEX misroutes an important overnight package. A shipping clerk says, “can’t we just pay an airline to get it to the destination city and have someone pick it up?” No way! We are not set up for that kind of effort.

Good ideas are fought tooth and nail in the trenches within your business. In fact, the better the idea, the more likely it will be opposed. It happens every day at YOUR business.

You’re denying this, right now, as you are reading it. I can hear you thinking. “We are open to new ideas but just because we don’t accept every hair-brained scheme that comes up doesn’t mean we’re so egocentric as to kill good thought. We just know better because of experience. But we’re always open to suggestions.”  Bull. The default process is to find fault, not merit, in every new idea. You can always find fault.

So tell me, how many good ideas never reach you? How do you know?

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
[email protected]