Dan Ellis and Gary King are partners who own a successful printing company. Most of their customers are businesses in their area. Often many clients will even walk over from their office to drop off or pick up orders. They are on a first-name basis with most of their customers and their customers trust them when they made suggestions for changes. They often fill last-minute orders and deliver them right away.
Dan and Gary had a pretty solid customer base and enough work to keep their employees busy, so they didn’t feel like they needed to worry too much about competition.
One day, a big, chain printing company opened a shop two blocks from their shop. The chain shop mailed coupons and special offers to all of the businesses in the area and ran specials on their website.
Dan was a little worried about the competition, but also thought their solid customer base wouldn’t switch to the chain. He told Gary there wasn’t much they could do anyway – the chain store had a massive marketing budget and low prices that they couldn’t compete with.
Gary disagreed, and thought they should do more to compete – not only for new business, but to hang onto their current customers.
The first thing Gary did was make a list of reasons why customers should work with them – their staff is knowledgeable and experienced, their staff is familiar with each repeat clients’ needs, they never miss deadlines, they use high-quality materials, to name a few.
Gary created a comparison infographic, showing how their service was superior to the impersonal chain that hired cheap labor with little experience.
Gary created a nice flier with the infographic and mailed them to businesses in the area with a “10% off new orders” offer. He then created a nice thank you card, with the infographic on the back, and personally delivered them to as many of their loyal clients as he could.
And guess what? Yes, they did lose some clients to the cheaper chain store, but most of those clients came back after experiencing its lower quality service. They told Gary and Dan stories of messed up orders and missed deadlines. Most said the lower costs weren’t worth the risks.
Gary’s 10% off offer brought in some new clients. He also established some business partnerships with local graphic and web designers and photographers. Why? So they could offer their clients services beyond printing and refer business to one another. Business actually improved, and Gary and Dan now enjoy their expanded venture.
Dan’s reaction to the competition was to do nothing. He underestimated how much the chain store could hurt their business. He also felt powerless against the chain store. While he didn’t “run,” he didn’t stand up to protect his business.
Gary, on the other hand, came out fighting. He immediately thought of some ways they could differentiate themselves from the competition — and demonstrated how much they valued their current clients. He also found opportunities to increase their business by partnering with relevant businesses.
Of course, things could have gone the other way for Dan and Gary, and the chain store could have put them out of business. But even if the worst had happened, do you think they would have felt better knowing they had at least tried – or they did nothing?
If you’ve ever been a successful athlete, you had to fight for your wins – you couldn’t give up or doubt yourself. However, most of us don’t have professional athletic careers. It’s not in our nature to choose “fight” in everyday circumstances.
Does this mean you should walk around with a chip on your shoulder — and your fists (or words) ready to lash out at any perceived threat? No, of course not! There may be times when your best course of action is to step back and evaluate. By no means am I saying you must come out swinging every time.
It simply means you can learn how to incorporate the fight response into just about any situation – empowering you to be more successful in all aspects of your life, particularly in your career.
If you’re faced with a challenging situation that interferes with achieving your goals, whether it’s competition, inertia or setbacks, you have a choice. You can become a victim of your circumstances, or you take action to change them.
Successful leaders recognize that obstacles and setbacks are problems, but they also see them as opportunities. Gary, in our example above, saw opportunities to increase their business by expanding their service offerings and creating referral relationships with partners.
If you’re faced with an obstacle, make a choice. I promise you, if you choose to go after what you want, even if it’s difficult – or doesn’t work out the first time, you’ll still come out ahead.
We talked about how to fight like a champion in our previous post.
Have you ever stood up to fight for what you want in your career? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image attributions: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/
Image quote attribution: Mark Twain