What is the most important element in a successful business mindset? There are a lot of viable candidates, but one of the most important elements is competition. A business had a definite need to stay competitive in order to survive and remain profitable. The marketplace, while mostly courteous and collegial, is still an open arena. There are going to be winners and losers at the end of the day. A good sense of competition, as well as a competitive edge, is what often separates the winners from the losers when the final whistle is blown. However, despite the importance of competition to business success, it is one of the most misunderstood and maligned of all the key business concepts. In order to be effectively competitive it is important to understand why this is so.
It’s helpful to start with an idea of what competition isn’t. Competition is not a no holds barred, take no prisoners, blood sport. While many people consider competitiveness as a game of dirty tricks, they are wrong. There must be an element of morality and ethical conduct associated with competition, especially business competition. Without this ethical element, business competition becomes no better than open warfare.
Now, this is not to say that your business doesn’t have to be competitive. Far from it. By its very nature, business is a competition, for customers, for profit, for market share and more. However, this competition has to be mixed with the ability to clearly see what is right and wrong when it comes to certain behaviors. The smart business person understands that some actions fall far outside the scope of a healthy desire to see a growing bottom line.
A problem arises when people lose this clarity of vision. They begin to drift towards unethical conduct in what starts as small steps. However, the more steps that they take, the dirtier they become and the easier it is to take even larger steps in the wrong direction. In the end, their lack of ethics becomes their downfall. They take one step to far, perhaps from unethical into criminal activities, and their world comes crashing down. What started out as an desire to gain an additional edge over their competition ends with a life changing and career-ending event. The sad part is that they would have achieved the same level of success in the long term by keeping the competition clean and above board. So while you always want to be competitive and never give up, you also do not want to give up the ability to tell right from wrong when it comes to that competition.