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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

Love Your Enemies


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…).


Published Thursday, July 21, 2011 8:00 AM by andyleonard

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Rajib Bahar said:

It's been a while I read your posts. Thanks for the wisdom. If you make this error then how do you go about redeeming yourself? I could imagine the torment one would go through during the redeeming process. What if the effort to redeem isn't perceived as sincere? Doesn't it seem like a lost opportunity?

Regarding the quote "treat others as you would like to be treated", Is it coming from Confucius?

July 21, 2011 11:51 AM

Ralph Wilson said:


Actually, if you extend the habits you are proposing into your personal life, you will find that it is extremely applicable  . . . if not more impartant . . . there, as well.  

Similarly, if you have a favorite tool/application/whatever and you continually bash every other tool/application/whatever, then it becomes obvious that you are not at all objective about tools/applications/whatevers.  I have long held that virtually every tool (whether software, hardware, plumbing, woodworking, or whatever) is useful, if not unique applicability, in some circumstances while, at the same time, being not so useful, if not completely useless, in other circumstances. Of course, I have been roundly chastized and even condemned for taking that stance by those who claim that their favorite tool is perfect for all circumstances. ;-)

July 21, 2011 12:16 PM

andyleonard said:

Hi Ralph,

  I've long maintained software delivery is a combination of tool and artist. Find someone with experience using a tool and they can deliver most of the time.


July 21, 2011 1:03 PM

Steve Jones said:

Nice post, and a similar view here. Competition is good:

July 22, 2011 1:09 PM

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