Stop Training Your Competition

I’m at Engage! listening to talented entrepreneurs and thought leaders talk about what it takes to take your business to the next level. Ways to get your concept to market, ideas to meet your clients’ expectations, why it’s important to field your sales calls, and so many other important strategies to grow your business — any business, not just an event business.

One of the recurring themes at the conference is how to establish a strong brand and command the price for the value you bring to your clients and consumers. A consensus among the group brought to the forefront by Colin Cowie is that those in the Engage! family should stop competing against each other and work to create a business model that does something different (the blue ocean approach).

While I agree that searching for a niche product that’s new to market, or bringing your product to clients in an innovative way is important to keeping your business successful and prices higher, there may be a much simpler solution to reducing competition.

Be a better boss.

Cindy Novotny made a short but emphatic comment about leadership during her talk. She said if you’re not getting results from your team, the problem is always with the leader. Period.

If we want to keep going past that period she put in there, you might consider the implications of not being a good leader. Not only will your team underperform, like she mentions, it has all sorts of other ripple effects, too.

The one I see most in the event industry but isn’t talked about much is how disappointed team members will underperform for you and then leave you when they’ve found the next big thing for themselves. The real danger comes when the employee you groomed to be your best starts her own company and becomes a direct competitor.

How many wedding professionals started working for an industry leaders, learned all they could, and then left to start their own thing? And how many industry leaders turn around and complain that they’re training their competition? The talk quickly devolves into stronger non-competes, NDAs, intellectual property rights, and smaller companies with tighter, more trusted teams.

What if instead we turned the conversation inward toward the team leader to talk about our need to take better care of our employees? What if we upped our game as industry leaders to be better service deliverers for our team members? What if we spent as much time trying to meet the needs of our associates as we did with our clients? What if we spent more time doing that?

Colin talked about stopping the bloody battles we fight with each other. After all, much of what we fight over is due to a finite supply of something — an idea, a service, a product, a client base — that’s being pursued by an ever-growing population of interested parties.

I believe most people want to follow a great leader. Human history is filled with tribes — not individuals. These people work together under a single leader or even small group. It’s usually when leadership fails to act in the best interest of the group that someone else in the group gets the idea to bloody the community with a fight for the top spot, or simply leaves with a team of warriors to fight the old community for the shared spaces in their area.

So, if you are a business owner and want people to stop leaving your tribe — your company— and competing for the same scarce supply of clients, focus on upping your leadership and management skills before you turn outward to fix the problem.

Sam Jacobson