In New England, nothing shouts “Summer!” more than the first report that sharks have been spotted off Cape Cod beaches. Great White sharks. Six more were spotted this week cruising close to the shore in Chatham, MA.
When the island of Martha’s Vineyard was used as the setting for the 1975 movie Jaws, the movie rolled out a tide of beach fears that have never quite receded. Scenes from Jaws have caused adults and children to avoid swimming in the ocean, or panic and run from the water when seeing a harmless sunfish off the beach, or learn the pounding technique for scaring a shark away.
Are your competitors sharks? When new competitors are 100 yards off your company shore, or seemingly right next to your plant (boat) do you immediately think you ‘…need a bigger boat?’
Here’s a familiar scene from Jaws which illustrates the “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” reaction.
My experience has shown that management reacts in one of three ways when confronted with intense, encroaching competition:
* Panic. This would include: screaming, obsessing, flailing, and hand wringing, and lashing out at the management team and customers. These are the companies that immediately think they ’Need a Bigger Boat’ to defend against the new foes.
* Fall Asleep. This is the avoidance/hiding the head in the sand approach. Sharks, HUGE Sharks? Ho, hum, snore. Hand me another ‘Gansett from the cooler.
* Jump In and swim with the sharks. This is the reaction from confident, informed management teams. They believe strong competition is helpful and healthy for the corporate ecosystem.
When a senior team either panics or falls asleep, the company becomes what I call Stuck in Traffic. And like being stuck in beach traffic on a hot summer day, this is not most people’s idea of fun.
How To Avoid Becoming Stuck in Traffic
Some obvious reminders/recommendations on how to stand up to the competitive onslaught:
* Don’t obsess, take a breath
* Ask yourself: Have you been taking your customers for granted? Have their needs changed? Are you Stuck in a Rut?
* Panic can be accentuated when you don’t have a clear understanding of your value proposition or your business model is muddled. Stack your company up against this new competitor by looking at: a) your value proposition vs. theirs; b) document specific differences in product/service offerings: c) document differences in the all the facets of the business model ‘wrapping’ (i.e. customer service, customer processes, go to market tactics, financial strength, quality, etc.)
* Be objective – if the competitors’ product or service offerings are in fact superior to yours, what are your team’s action plans to restore equilibrium or leapfrog you ahead?
Jim McHugh is an experienced executive and a CEO coach. You can find this post, as well as additional content on his blog called 9Stucks. You can also follow Jim on Twitter (@9Stucks) by clicking here.