I hate to lose.
That said, I am proud to admit that competition has made me a better businessman, a better golfer and a better person. And when there isn't another company or business to compete with, I try to outdo myself. If that sounds simple, well, it is. I always want to be at my best and show my best side.
People can exceed expectations when motivated properly. This story, told by Andrew S. Grove, former CEO of the Intel Corp., the California manufacturer of semiconductors, is a perfect illustration.
For years the performance of the Intel facilities maintenance group, which is responsible for keeping the buildings clean and in good shape, was substandard. No amount of pressure or inducement seemed to do any good.
Then Intel initiated a program in which each building's upkeep was periodically given a score by a resident senior manager. The score was then compared with those given the other buildings. Result: The condition of all of the buildings improved dramatically -- almost immediately. Nothing else had been done. People did not get more money or other rewards. What they did get was the stimulus of competition.
Competition drives performance. It drives people to work harder and dig deeper to deliver more than they ever thought they could.
Among the many benefits of increased market competition, according to the tutor2u website:
• Lower prices for consumers.
• A greater discipline on producers/suppliers to keep their costs down.
• Improvements in technology with positive effects on production methods and costs.
• A greater variety of products from which to choose.
• A faster pace of invention and innovation.
• Improvements to the quality of service for consumers.
• Better information for consumers, allowing people to make more informed choices.
There's nothing like a little competition to boost productivity. Look at industry studies and you will consistently see that competition helped improve results.
When I was in London at the Olympics, I heard an interviewer ask an athlete to predict the outcome of his race.
The athlete said, "I'll come in fifth."
Sure enough, that's exactly where he finished, even though he could easily have placed third, or even second, since two other major competitors fared poorly.
Contrast this with Manteo Mitchell, who broke his leg midway through the 4-by-400 meter relay but kept running to allow the U.S. team to reach the final.
I cannot emphasize enough that all my business life I have faced competition, and I believe it has made both my company and me better. When competitors improve their products, we improve ours more. When a sales prospect mentions service, I ask what the other company promised them and then exceed it. We know our customers better here at MackayMitchell Envelope Co. It's our real leg up on the competition. We hate to lose a customer. We take tremendous pride in beating the competition, because that means we are serving our customers better.
There is an old saying in Africa that goes like this: Every morning a gazelle gets up and knows that it must outrun the fastest lion or it will get eaten. And every morning, a lion gets up and knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
So, whether you are a gazelle or a lion, every morning when you get up, you'd better be running.
Mackay's Moral: If you go the extra mile, you will almost always beat the competition.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. His column is distributed by United Feature Syndicate.