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Who’s your biggest competitor?

Tom Wall Published on 03 February 2011

Do you tend to view the word “competition” as something negative? Maybe you truly dislike someone you see as your competition because of something that was said or done in the past. But in most cases, I think it’s safe to say that we simply feel threatened by our competition and we allow this to bring out insecurities and defensiveness.

Instead of seeing your competition as someone who threatens your success, why not turn that threat around and see it as an opportunity? Let’s face it, if it weren’t for competition, what would motivate you to strive to be better? In fact, the main reason monopolies are bad for society is because the consumer is the ultimate loser.

Instead of always getting better products, services, and prices, customers would have to accept whatever the complacent monopoly gives them. Look at the advancements we’ve seen in the technology sector in recent years ... Apple has revolutionized the world of cell phones. And when I see all the new applications they are advertising for the iPhone, it looks like there is no end in sight!



Ultimately, when there is competition, everyone is forced to get better or risk being forced out. The most productive and innovative companies provide customers with incredible advancements while still turning a profit ... capitalism at its finest!

So honestly, who is your competition? Is it the guy down the road? Someone you see at the next industry tradeshow? I’d be completely naïve if I said that neither of those are your biggest competitors. Yes, you definitely want to keep an eye on what they’re doing, but getting caught up and worrying about them all the time only distracts you from what you really need to be focused on.

I tend to think your real competition is the person you see in the mirror every day. And yes, that might sound a little cliché, but I’ll stand by it. Day after day, you need to remain focused on operating your business as well as you can, regardless of what your “competition” is doing.

One thing I believe fuels a false sense of competition is when people pay too much attention to industry benchmarks and the claims of consultants. Again, at the risk of seeming naïve, let me first say that I know it’s critical you compare your performance to what the rest of the industry has demonstrated to be performance standards.

But when so-and-so brags about having a SCC of 125, he doesn’t tell you how many mastitis cows get sold or how much milk gets dumped or pasteurized. Like people who win $500 playing poker in Vegas, they never tell you how much they lose!


Now don’t get me wrong, top performers do post these kinds of numbers without “cheating” to get there. But I’m afraid too many times we get caught up in a couple pieces of information without looking at the big picture. Even when comparing apples to apples, there are still a lot variables to consider in order to make a fair comparison.

So instead of getting hung up on every benchmark out there, how about establishing numbers for your dairy that you believe are challenging and attainable? Then, month to month, quarter to quarter, compare this year’s performance to last year’s.

Forget about what your neighbor is doing and just improve on your own results. If your performance is trending in the right direction every month, that means you’re on the right track ... and really, that’s all that matters.

A friend of mine named John has a philosophy that I think is brilliant. He started with his company as a department supervisor and after a few years was promoted to lead one of their multi-million-dollar facilities ... he took it from grave to great in a matter of only two years.

Every day, John told his team that he expected them to be 1 percent better today than they were yesterday. He reminded them that their team’s success is a journey, building off of one day and on to the next. As his team’s leader, John didn’t get caught up in things he couldn’t control.

Instead, he looked in the mirror and demanded 1 percent more from himself every day. He’s always told me that no one can demand more from him than he does ... and now he’s part of his company’s corporate team. Think about that ... If you’re committed to chasing yourself harder than anyone else, what competitor could ever possibly catch you? PD


Tom Wall