The Business of IT
Posted on: February 28, 2017
Editorial Tuesday | Business Competition Stinks
Posted by: Phil Stalnaker
I am not a fan of business competition. While I do appreciate the free market and how competition drives innovation and efficiency, the connotation it carries with it is morose. I could get into a bevy of conversations on numerous aspects of business competition, no one would read through it; after all, this is a technology blog. But whether you look at it as unfair, biased or too unregulated, there are issues with it and I would like to hit on one of those issues.
Business Competition and Charles Darwin
Competition is a constant in life, even down to the basics of nature. Charles Darwin first expounded the term of natural selection, which means the life that adapts is the life that survives and produces the next generation. Natural selection is competition at the biological level. With many animal species, for example, males fight each other for the right to mate with the female. Thus, the physically strongest wins and is able to transfer their better genetic code to the next generation. This is a basic tenant to life, and we continue it as humans every time we put effort into ourselves in order to win a date.
That is all normal, natural and good. We have to compete to survive and that is no different in the concrete jungle. Business competition works in exactly the same set of principles at its heart; the better company wins the contract, earns the money and it able to move forward into the future. That’s fine; there is nothing wrong with that, as that survival process is hard-wired into our DNA. The part I have a problem with is the apparent joy one business has in the defeat of another. Let me explain.
In the wild, “Female bowerbirds aren’t just impressed by a male’s colorful feathers and rockin’ dance moves, they want to see if he’s handy, too. Males use sticks to build a two-sided structure called a bower, which the female inspects to make sure it is well-constructed. To sweeten the deal, the males will typically use flowers, leaves, or even brightly-colored bits of plastic in order to decorate. He does everything he can to prove he’ll be a good provider. These females are highly choosy and won’t hesitate to pass on a male who doesn’t have the whole package” (APlus).
There are still plenty of bowerbirds in the wild. It is obvious that there is more than one male left. The point is this: while bowerbirds are very competitive with the finding of their mate, they understand that their species will never survive if one male wins all the females. It would never work that way. In the same fashion, no singular business can provide the needs of everyone. Let me share a story.
I was recently in a conversation with a networking friend of mine who happens to have an overlap with me in terms of our VoIP phone service. While the conversation started a bit on the awkward side because we recently found that that both of us were in competition over a contract, never of us wanted the personal friendship to be impacted because of that particular deal. Instead, we talked a little more deeply about our specific strengths. During that chat, I emphasized that B2’s strength in phone service is having a strong, reliable hosted phone service configuration, but that is held up by our strength as an IT service provider. Thus, if someone who has a hosted VoIP service experiences call quality issues, we have the ability to respond as an IT company and diagnose/fix any network or hardware issues that might be causing the problem. On the other hand, my friend is a VoIP specialist in that it is their only line of business. They detailed knowledge their team has on the intricacies of phone systems is impressive.
In five minutes we were able to find enough differences in our service that there is no need for us to compete. Instead, we choose cooperation, because we understand that a shared strategy (with a few referrals thrown in for each other)will benefit us both in the long run. There is more than enough business out there for each company. This, however, is not how many businesses run. They act and feel like they need to be the only (fill-in-blank) company that exists and anyone who plays in that pond must be destroyed.
Learning from the Animal Kingdom
That is simply not the case. The world around us is a bevy of learning for the person with the eyes to see. While, yes, companies with similar offerings will bump into each other from time to time, accepting and accentuating our differences will provide a more successful outcome. But just like no species is dominated by a single individual, the public need not be dominated by one company (or one company in each industry).
So, How can your business cooperate so that we as a society can improve? What choices can you make?