This week a new coffee shop opened across the street from the coffee shop that has been in our village for ages. Opinions have been flying about the new venue. Some were happy for something exciting and new for they felt the first shop was not meeting their needs. Others were outraged that the same type of business was allowed to open in such close proximity (but do we really want our local municipalities to choose what companies are allowed and their placement?). Still there were others that felt the old shop met their needs, and they pledged their allegiance to stay the course.
This zip code alone has more than 40,000 people living in it, and while those are not all coffee drinkers, many are. Certainly there are enough locals to keep two shops in business. If that is the case, why does the idea of competition elicit such strong emotions from the townspeople?
Here a four reasons why competition is not only useful but also necessary.
1) It Ups the Game. So often in business, we fall into the status quo. Life is good, business is working well enough, and we become blind to what clients are experiencing. Potential issues could be rust on your van, holes in your work outfits, dirty windows in the showroom, or what my company is guilty of: clutter. We bring new products in, and they get set in the showroom along with some pamphlets and papers and power cords from something we boxed up and the screwdriver… And so forth. You must look at your business with fresh eyes to stay clean and up to date.
2) The Industry Gains Awareness. When one coffee shop overflows with nowhere to sit down, one can cross the street and go to the other. The corner becomes a destination. The more competition you have in the AV market, the more likely that the average Joe is going to know to call you before the drywall goes up on that new build. Seeing more than one AV Company at a home show tells a client, “Hey this is important stuff I should have.” How many landscapers or pool companies do you see at a home show? How many gas stations or burger joints open across the street from one another?
3) It Encourages Change. Maybe you’re not great at installing cameras, but your team can fix any WiFi issue, anywhere. Having competition forces you to find your wheelhouse and double down on it. One of the hardest things about this industry is how big the “wheelhouse” can be. Specializing, in distinct aspects, can make you a real expert instead of being pretty good at a lot of things but an expert at none of them. What do the people want? Competition reminds us to take a birds-eye view at our company and see if changes are needed.
4) It Improves Customer Service. I bet when you know you are bidding against another firm that your sales pitch is spot on. Customer service becomes the top priority when you know that you are not the only fish in the pond. In a perfect world, your customer service should always be a top priority, but when someone else is knocking on the door, it become that much more evident.
That new coffee shop in my village is pleasant, and the coffee is excellent. It feels like a movie set of what a coffee shop should be. Is that for everyone? Many will crave the local store and their homemade desserts and goodies. These two shops have the opportunity to find what style is best and make it work for the village around them.
Having other players in the market sharpens one's vision and focuses you to put your best foot forward. It drives us to innovate, to be better, to fight, and to win. It creates better products, solutions, and services. Competition is what one may call a necessary evil.
I say, bring it on!