Thursday, December 26, 2013

Competition or Cooperation? Which is Better for Your Business?

Early training
We are told from an early age that sharing is a good thing. Later we are told that a little competition makes us better at what we do. These conflicting viewpoints are with us for the rest of our lives and for those of us that start our own businesses they are ever present. The real question though is which is better for our business? Will a competitive, crush all competition, spirit cause us to thrive in business or is there a better alternative?
The Wal-Mart Equation
Since its beginnings Wal-Mart has had the “lowest price wins” philosophy. It has seemed to be a successful way to build their empire and to a certain aspect many of us have benefitted from it in that we can get a variety of products at rock bottom prices. But let’s look below the surface – when Wal-Mart enters a new town the immediate reaction is that the small “Mom and Pop” type stores are affected for the worse. Many will go under and those that don’t merely scrape by. Now, in that community the only option is Wal-Mart. But even though the prices are rock bottom what are we getting? Much of the time we get sub standard quality products. Is that really what we wanted? The competition that Wal-Mart has introduced to the marketplace has in effect been a detriment to the consumer.
Business as usual?
Many window cleaning companies view others in their area as intruders at best, and enemies in some cases. Why? Perhaps the other company has engaged in targeted efforts to take your customers or employees. Sadly this happens. But most of the time it’s the early training or Wal-Mart equation that are present. They’ve been told the same thing we were – competition is good for your business. But is it really? And more importantly, is it good for you in general?
Ask yourself how much time and energy you devote to worrying about how to stay ahead of the competition. Sometimes it’s just a nagging thought in the back of our mind, but far too often it can be all consuming. Especially if the competitor is as successful or, and here’s a scary thought, more successful than us. We may even begin doing marketing based on what our competitor isn’t instead of what we can do for our customer. The good news is that there is an alternative.
Cooperation – the alternative
It may seem to go against the grain but why not look at your competitor as another resource for your business? Let’s face it – you can’t possibly handle all the glass in your area. So why try? In our area we have window cleaners that specialize in storefront, residential, hi-rise, you name it. I personally prefer to do residential and when I get calls for storefront work I have at least two cleaners in my area that I can refer those calls to. The best part of this is that they don’t look at me as a competitor and they refer business to me. I have now effectively increased my marketing presence by forming a cooperative spirit between myself and other local companies.
Add to this that when I see these guys in the area I don’t have to worry “are they trying to steal my customers?” because I know we are on good terms. It takes me back to when I was little. I – like many of you no doubt – was taught to share my toys with others. I couldn’t play with every toy I had at the same time and really didn’t want to. That has become my business philosophy – sharing. We can’t clean all the glass at the same time and probably don’t want to either. Cleaning glass is just something we do to make a living and it’s the same for other cleaners in our area.
There another great reason to cooperate instead of compete – price! Instead of competition driving price down a cooperative spirit allows us to get good prices for our work. I’m not advocating price fixing or anything like it, but let’s face it we all want to make a decent living for our family and the work we do can be dangerous. Add to that the fact that we are self-employed and must take care of our own health care and retirement concerns. Do we really think we can do this if prices for our work are constantly going down?
Some will say that it’s good for the consumer. Is it really? NO. Why do I say that? Again the Wal-Mart equation helps us. We pay low, low prices that’s true. Of course the quality is also low, low. If we are lowering our prices rest assured the quality is going down as well. In a marketplace where we share and cooperate the prices stay up and so does the quality! Our fellow cleaners will make sure of that.

So, the ball is in your court. What do you want? Do you want to work in an area dominated by aggression, bitterness, and fear? Or would you rather share your toys?

For more educational topics go to Window Cleaning Institute

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