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:
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:
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!)
Rockstars don’t wear cool clothing. The clothes become cool because the Rockstars happen to be wearing them.
True rockstars are just themselves. What is cool, is their performance and attitude. This is then translated.
Rock star as defined by startup blog only includes people who play in ‘real’ bands and generally rock out. Just like ‘the Clash‘ and Anthony Kiedis below.
If you ever want to have, be or work on a cool brand or startup – this blog entry is worth pondering.
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.
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.
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.
The following is a true story as told by Ender Baskin:
A few mates went out for some beers at a local bar. They were young, vibrant guys who where looking to meet some girls. Fine. One of the guys had a very cool t-shirt which said the following:
“Don’t get too excited I’m just the wingman.”
The group of boys all loved it. They thought it was very cool, awesome in fact. They were certain it could only enhance his changes of meeting a girl on said night.
As expected people ‘did’ love it. They all came up and remarked on how funny, cool and smart the t-shirt was. Only problem was, it was all the blokes who happened to remark upon it.
This parable is a a little bit like the type of advertising that wins awards. The producers and colleagues in the industry love it. Yet award winning advertisements don’t always sell the product. Cool and funny is great, often a nice bonus when communicating with our people. But if the basic objective isn’t met, we’re better off with something less cool that actually works.
I recently had some beers and a meal at a place called Little Creatures dinning hall in Melbourne Australia.
For the uninitiated, Little Creatures is a craft beer which has it’s origins in Australia and has recently opened a flagship ‘dinning hall’ – seen below.
They’ve simply taken this to a new level. I’m not taking about the fact that they have weird and groovy beer flavours, all naturally brewed. I’m talking about the way they take you on a personal journey with their service.
My favourtie was the beer education programme. They have a ‘pony show’ – I don’t think it’s called that, but it is what I’ll call it for this post.
You get a taste in little groovy pony glasses of all their different beers, then choose one you like. One of their ‘Little Creatures Beer Experts’ comes and sits down on your table with you and they explain all the different types of beers. A real sit down for 10 minutes. A rare treat when the usual sitiation is waiting 10 minutes for crappy service in bars and restuarants. They teach you how to taste each beer and the slight nuances of each. They even provide an idea what type of people generally like the different types.
It’s really nice and fun. I even heard the word “sessionable” to describe a beer – They invent some nice jargon to make you feel part of a tribe. Cool.
No need to advertise this little venture. We’ll do that for them….
And this is what cool startups are doing in retail.
I took this pic of this shop front / side in my local neighbourhood. It’s easy to see when you drive past.
Startup blog prize (free book) for anyone who can tell me what they do without calling the number (or knowing someone who works there / digging around).
I’m all for single minded simplicity, but if we are going to go to the effort to paint the brand and phone number, it’s also handy to have a tag line which tells people what we do.
Steve – rentoid.com
I noticed this morning that a particular area of my box hedge isn’t growing as well as other areas. See the two photos below.
In order to remedy the situation I thought about what the different things I could do:
- Ensure the poor performing area was getting enough water
- Make sure the soil wasn’t poisoned in that particular area of the garden
- Remove the weeds from the periphery
- Add some fertiliser to the struggling area
- Aerating the soil with a hoe
- Ensure the area is getting enough sun
In fact, I’ll try the methods above. What I wont do is ‘remove’ the box hedge. I really need it because it forms part of the garden perimeter. It provides the required symmetry. It’s an integral part of the garden. I will give it the extra attention it deserves, and talk to it. I won’t pretend it will fix itself, because I know that is just a fantasy.
So, why do we take the opposite view with our staff / employees or business partners? We rarely ask first what we can do, and most often just ‘cut them out’, get rid of them, or even chastise their performance, before we look at the reasons for it. Maybe they:
- Aren’t getting enough cash to do their part?
- Maybe their part of the organisation has structural issues?
- Maybe they have non functional ‘hangers on’ stealing time & resources?
- Maybe we need to invest in some training or programs to boost the area?
- Maybe we need to give them more space & freedom to perform?
- Maybe we are not providing enough reward & recognition?
You’ve probably noticed how many of our people problems have strong analogies to my box hedge. In fact, both nature and people, need nurturing.
Steve – founder rentoid.com