Competitors

Competition is eternally existential. We compete for love, money, attention, fame, wealth, recognition, and sometimes, we even compete for food. Turns out humans aren’t the only species who must to compete to survive. All living things must do it. Even trees in a deep forest compete for sunlight by growing as quickly as possible forgoing width for height.

What I find most interesting about competition is how we or any being chooses to do it. When a competitor catches us unaware, they usually achieve this through  using some form of subterfuge. Like growing in a smaller segment of the market. Focusing on a neglected geography. And the really smart competitors disguise what they are doing so you don’t even see them coming. A little like Google has done to Microsoft who was overly focused on the ‘desktop’, while the world was moving to web app’s and gathering and storing of information externally.

I noticed this phenomenon first hand recently. My business was moving along swimmingly (which in this case is my tomato plantation). As you can see from the photo below. My Roma’s looked healthy and almost ready for the picking:

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But upon closer inspection a competitor had been eating away at my market for quite a long time without me noticing. Once I turned around the tomato to inspect the back side of them – I was devastated to find my competition. They caught me napping and had a very big impact on my market share. As can be seen here:

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How did they manage this?

  • The caterpillar was smart enough to attack on the reverse side out of view.
  • His color is exactly the same as the tomato proving an excellent camouflage.
  • He waited till the market was already developed (by me) and the tomatoes had a reasonable size and were worth attacking – in this case risking his life over!
  • In true terrorist fashion he penetrated the market at one entry point and ate it inside out. That is, the caterpillar was so deep inside the market, he was completely out of view.

None of this was by mistake. It has been driven by millennia of evolutionary survival and subsequent genetic coding. Nature is smart.

The implications for startups are many. When we start out to compete, the best thing we can do is replicate what nature does. Stay out of harms way. Stay small and unseen. Try and gain some momentum and size. If we’re lucky will have built our share of the market and be ensconced before anyone notices.

(FYI – I picked the tomatoes, and placed them in another location of the garden to let the caterpillars fight another day – they may just leave some seeds which will flourish next season!)

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I could’ve been a contender

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In 10 years from now many of us will look back and thought about what could’ve been. What we could have achieved if we didn’t just take the advice of others, take ‘dives for money’. If we didn’t mortgage our careers (lives?) for corporations who didn’t give a hoot about us. If we had the guts to make tough decisions and believe in ourselves.

Our choices matter a great deal more than our level of talent does. We should make choices which will have a direct impact 10 years from now.

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People Watching

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve never been ‘people watching’, then start up blog strongly recommends a session. For a lot of reasons it’s a cool thing all entrepreneurs should do. For one, all our revered entrepreneurs are champion trend spotters. And they spot these trends a long time before they are reported in the Sunday newspaper lift outs.

What’s next?

Go some where busy, go somewhere where there are zillions of transactions, go somewhere sans commerce, go where families hang out, go somewhere singles hangout, look for the subgroups, watch people looking at shelves in stores – guess their decision process, see if this process is the same for all or different for all, see what they wear, see how they move, how did they get there, where are they from, bring a notepad with you and write down ideas, go places you’ve never been before…. Watch people, guess their motivations, view their life in action and then we’ll be the ones gaining life experience…. Just go and watch.

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The funny thing about our world is that we are all in it every day, but very few of us are actually paying any attention to it. Step off the stage and become the director. Make it a habit to pay attention to what is going on in our world.

As entrepreneurs and marketers we are lucky. We can do our homework everywhere we go, and our start ups are the key beneficiaries.

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Business relationships & startups

Entrepreneurs must build all types of relationships.

  • Relationships with our suppliers and the value chain
  • Relationships with our buyers & resellers
  • Relationships with our staff and business partners / investors
  • Relationships with our audience & evangelists

In fact, when we are small have little or no revenue, the only thing we can do is have conversations and build relationships. These will lead to action and revenue. While having dinner with a colleague the other night, John Colbert of Corporate Edge training he gave me his view on relationships.

He said:

There are two important factors in relationships – frequency & proximity.

How frequently are we engaging the other person? Where frequency, is any type of conversation, communication or interaction.

And what is our proximity to this person? Where proximity pertains to the physical closeness and real world interactions we have together. Do we meet in person? Are we getting to know each other without the use of technology? Simply meeting in the same location?

The more of the above two things we have the stronger our relationships come. If we for a moment think of who we have strong relationships with, we’ll see we have both Frequency and Proximity.


The reality is humans want to deal with people they like, trust and know. This is what relationships build.

So if one of our important business relationships (those listed above) is flagging, maybe we should have more frequent interactions, get closer or do both.

How to grow – My latest project

Here’s a small entrepreneurial project I am currently undertaking. Yes, growing some herbs and veggies.

It’s something all of us should do for good reason. So please invest the 3 minutes it will take to read this link –  which I wrote almost a year ago.

Grow your business.

Long ‘to do’ list

Quite possibly the most whined about thing in business. The never ending to do list.  We hear it from both corporate cubicle dwellers and entrepreneurs alike.

So before any of us choose to complain about all the things we have to get done we might consider the antithesis for a moment – An empty to do list.

Firstly, it’d mean we have no business ‘upside’. That we’ve run out of ideas on how to move forward. Or worse it’d mean we didn’t have any goals.  By definition we would not be engaged in, or have action plans which will improve ourselves or our business. This is the worst possible scenario I can imagine.

In fact the longer the list – the happier we should be. It should be the most exciting time in business and startup land. A time when we can be prolific and achieve the most. The long list ensures we can win because we have so many ideas to test and options we can take. The trick is not to obsess with all the stuff we aren’t getting done, but promoting the game winning activities to the top of the list and implementing as quickly as possible.

In the end it’s what gets done which matters, the projects we finish. Not how many new and groovy ideas we have waiting.

Are you into it?

I’m sure there are examples of people who’ve been successful by simply being good at what they do. But there are more examples of world beaters who are ‘into’ what they do.

I’m into this blog. I love writing it. I did it with as much enthusiasm when 10 people read it each month as I do now when more than 20,000 do.

Some of my favourite entrepreneurs are really into what they do.

Branson loves music & flying.

Trump loves real estate & the deal

Steve Jobs is really into design & aesthetics

Lindsay Fox loves trucks and cars (he even has ‘truck driver’ as the title on his business card!)

Doug Warbrick loves surfing….

Doug and his surfing partner Brian started Ripcurl, the surfing company. They started making surfboards in the late 1960’s and shortly after made some the first surfing wetsuits the world has seen. In fact their first wetsuit was made from a rubber carpet underlay they pulled up from a floor with an old pre world war 2 sewing machine – great bootstrapping. He made the wetsuits so he could endure the harsh Victorian winter and enjoy the best waves of the year down there.

They just kept making really good surfing equipment. Which they also sold, 40 years on Ripcurl is now one of the three dominant companies in the Industry, valued at well over $500 million.

Ripcurl founders & store circa 1970, followed by curent retail outlet

Are you into your job, business or startup, or just passing the days?

The best innovations no less ‘ entrepreneurial success’ comes from people who are really into what they do.