This post is the forty-third part of a ramble-rant about the software business. The current posts in this series can be found on the series landing page.
This post is about enemies.
Opposition is a Clue
Don’t believe me? Most worthwhile endeavors have met opposition, especially early on. It happens in life, it happens in business; it even happens in communities. Something as cool as SQL Saturday – steadily approaching its 100th event at the time of this writing – was initially opposed by one entity that regarded the idea as competition (without apology… to date).
What does opposition mean? It means you’re on to something. Perhaps you’re beating someone to the punch or delivering with more agility or quality (or both!). You can be certain of one thing: you have an advantage. If you didn’t, why would anyone waste time opposing you? If your idea or product or service stinks, it’s more more efficient for those opposing you to observe as you wither and eventually die on the vine.
Only those who care will oppose.
They fall into roughly two categories: those who have a vested interest in your success and those who have a vested interest in your failure. Your family usually falls into the first category as they may depend on you and your success for provision. Plus, your family usually loves and supports you unconditionally. Competitors fall into the second category as your success will reduce their ability to succeed (maybe – but they will likely see it that way).
Why You Should Love Competitors
Competitors will tell you – for free – where your idea, product, or service is vulnerable. Don’t gloss over the “free” part. That’s not just Andy being coy – it’s a fact. Your competition may not come right and say “Your weakness is thus and so” (at least not to you), but they will tell those searching for your product or service. Is this a bad thing? I suppose it depends on how you wish your customers to view you. If you want them to think you’re a big fat hairy loser, you can bash anyone you want – including your competition. You see; people are smart. They understand when they hear you speaking that way about anyone – your competition included – that you’re communicating your capabilities to characterize others in this manner.
Folks understand if you’ll talk that way about someone else, you’ll talk that way about them.
Do you really want to communicate to your customers (of all people) that you’re capable of talking that way about them? Me neither. What’s the alternative? Trust and respect. You can even make money from trust and respect if you engage in Coopetition instead of competition. Try it. It works.
As transparency becomes more the rule than the exception, how you relate to those in the same business becomes increasingly important. Your best defense is to be professional, play fair, and treat others as you would like to be treated (I’ve read that somewhere else…).