Perspective: When Is a Competitor Your Partner in Success?

Earlier this month the folks in Naples, FL celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ritz-Carlton’s opening in their town. (The hotel subsequently opened a second location there.) Anticipating the celebration were executives from other Naples hotels and resorts who view the Ritz-Carlton’s success as key to their own organizations’ well-being. Skeptics might ask, “How can that be? Isn’t the hospitality industry very competitive? Aren’t these executives just putting on their ‘game’ faces and mustering a show of public support while gnashing their teeth in private?”

I don’t think so. The reason can be summed up in one word: perspective. Twenty-five years ago when the Ritz-Carlton came to town, Naples hoteliers had a choice: they could view the “interloper” as a challenge and try to compete head-to-head with it, or they could see it as an opportunity to improve their own organizations. Some of these executives chose the latter perspective. As a result, a few of them became more discerning about their target markets, focusing on the segments that allowed them to play to their strengths. Others reveled in the opportunity to raise the performance bar in their own organizations, thus making them more attractive and ultimately more successful than they otherwise would have been. By focusing on what their organizations did best and setting high performance standards, these executives were able to benefit from the entry of what could have been a formidable competitor in their market area.

Executives and business owners who view their competitors as direct threats often end up reacting to their (the competitors’) moves, thereby effectively ceding their power to set their organizations’ course and, ultimately, limiting their potential for success. By taking an alternative perspective – i.e., defining the organization’s niche based on its strengths, and focusing on excelling at what it does best – leaders can position their organizations to thrive.

Here are three lessons this situation teaches us about how organizations can thrive in the face of competition:

1. View competitors as providing opportunities for success rather than as representing threats to survival.

In this case, hotel executives combined resources to create effective marketing campaigns for the Naples area, thereby increasing tourism dramatically. They also worked together on issues that had a positive impact on the hospitality industry as a whole.

2. Take the opportunity to purposefully review the organization’s strengths and ensure that its mission and vision truly leverage its talent.

A clearly articulated mission allows leaders to allocate scarce resources effectively and provides the motivation for employees to become fully engaged.

3. Control the organization’s destiny by being proactive rather than reacting to what the competition is doing.

A reactionary approach effectively puts the competition in control of the organization’s destiny. Though the organization may survive, it cannot thrive in that mode.

As illustrated by this story in Naples, the answer to the question posed in the title, “When is a competitor your partner in success?” is, “When you take the perspective that everyone can be well served, and you act accordingly.”

How do you view your competition?

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

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