"Only the paranoid survive". Andy Gove

“Only the paranoid survive”. Andy Gove

We spend heaps of time setting out to satisfy customers, do what is right for them, to ensure our success, no argument, but is it enough?

To add another dimension to your competitive efforts, ask yourself the simple question “what would really hurt the opposition?”

If the answer is clear, you probably should do it to them before they either do it to you, or address the weakness.

It does not matter if you are BHP or a local business, there is a always a strong Darwinian trait displayed by those who are successful.

In my past, I spend a significant amount of time in the dairy industry, lots of lessons, but amongst them one that demonstrates the essential truth of commercial Darwinism.

My major competitor made an inordinate amount of their total profit from one product in one state, a situation that had evolved over many years, and seemed unassailable. The margins they made on this product would have funded a substantial amount of activity elsewhere that was causing us grief. The board of the dairy co-operative  I worked for would not allow me to aggressively attack that profit pool, not being prepared to lose a little bit in order to assist the competitor lose a lot.

They were concerned at retaliatory action, correctly, but the capacity to retaliate would have been limited  by the impact on their profits of a successful attack by us, and the fact that our business did  not have any equivalent weak point that made us way less vulnerable. My view at the time, and still, was that the real reason they were unprepared to be aggressive was that it was not “gentlemanly” and the dairy industry in those days, which was still evolving from a lot of smaller co-operatives, carried some of the competitive baggage of being a co-operative.

Gentlemen did not do those things!

Competitively stupid  decision, and an opportunity lost, but all this had nothing to do with the customer, beyond setting out to disrupt the comfortable relationship they had with my competitors brand in South Australia.

Some years after I left the business, my erstwhile target, having addressed their competitive weaknesses, successfully mounted a successful hostile takeover of the my previous employer, who still acted as though the competitive market place was somewhere that gentlemen met to have afternoon tea.

Sometimes we lose sight of the playing field as we play the game, we talk about competitive advantage, but often just in the context of the customer, and the value they receive, but forget the flip side of competitive advantage, finding a way to belt your competitor over the head.

Legally of course, and within the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, but nevertheless, a belting.