Saturday, July 9, 2011

From Competition To Collaboration

The basic premise of competition is that the world has finite limits; whether that be the size of a market, the number of customers, or the number of opportunities that one can compete in or for.  If there is finite limits then of course it is understandable to see competition as a win-lose proposition.  If demand is infinite then viewing everything as win-lose is actually detrimental to success.  

If consumers spend only a finite amount of money a year and there are only a finite number of consumers available to you then obviously, Walmart will be viewed as a threat, as a competitor.  If there is a law that states that individuals can only join one social network then of course Google + can be seen as a threat to Facebook, just as one could claim that the success of Facebook caused the demise of Myspace;  but the reality was that the demise of Myspace was due to their inability to judge consumer demand and Facebook benefited; execution led to the demise of Myspace not competition.

I have yet to see, after 25 years, a company and or a product that was run out of business due to the external threat of competition; every single example I have, and there are numerous examples, are all of companies that ceased operations due to internal shortcomings.

One of the hardest things I have had to accomplish over the course of the last 6 months was a business plan.  I know that we will collaborate with other product manufacturers to offer their product in our market.  I realize that there are barriers to entry in my market and that we can provide a "bridge" over the "moat" to our market; six months ago I had no idea what the products were, but I have identified three now.  I also realize that at some point in the future we will have stores; but will they be actual brick and mortar stores, pop up shops, or stores within stores, I have no idea.  As far as when this occurs, again, it will occur when a compelling opportunity presents its self.  I do have a list of cities where we would initially begin thinking about establishing retail outlets, but that could change too!  I do realize, based upon internet sales, that we will most likely have a store in Moscow, Warsaw, and Amsterdam.

Being competitive, creates an "us against everyone else" mentality which becomes tunnel vision.  Tunnel vision is the one sure way to extinction.  Terms such as "consumer centric" and or "customization" are nothing more than new ways of saying that one collaborates with their consumers.  That collaboration can then be the basis of a whole new model for a retail product; retailers know what their consumers have bought but that should not be confused with what they are willing and or wanting to purchase.  I see this constantly when I review what retailers purchased in a particular geographic area and what consumers, in the same geographic area,  have purchased from our website.

The only real competition that exists, is that within ones self and or ones organization; the need to constantly improve and adapt is the key to success.  The only competition that matters is that between being and becoming; and in this competition smaller companies, companies that collaborate and reach out, companies that can be proactive rather than reactive will succeed; and thus the threat of competition is internal not external.

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