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Apr 28

Respect The Incumbent

Posted by: Mark Solon        

“You don’t tug on superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off the old lone ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim.” - Jim Croce

“There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.” - General George Custer just prior to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

“Anything can happen, especially where he’s hitting it.”  - Stephen Ames when asked about his chances against Tiger Woods last year at the World Match Play Tournament before Woods drubbed him 9 & 8, the biggest margin of victory in the history of the event.

Stephen Ames during his painful match with Tiger

Stephen Ames during his painful match with Tiger

Talking smack rarely does any good. Why then do CEOs love to badmouth the competition? I’ve never understood it. For some reason, they can’t help themselves. I know that CEOs understand that intellectually, everything that their competitors do is completely out of their hands. The only thing they can control is their own business (plenty enough to worry about). Yet time and again, I hear CEOs ripping their competitors to employees, board members, and anyone else who will listen.

I remember one CEO that I backed who regularly sent out emails to the board every time he even heard bad news about a certain VC backed competitor. He was so obsessed with everything that he perceived this particular competitor to be doing wrong, that he lost his objectivity when looking at his own business. I wonder how he reflects about that today as his company has now closed its doors while the competitor has gone on to great success?

Look, there’s nothing wrong with having a competitor serve as motivation to rally the troups inside your company. But before the next time you think about “dissing”your competition, remember that your competitors:

  • had the same brilliant idea as you, probably before you did
  • are also entrepreneurs and surely as smart and hard working as you are
  • are probably nice people with families and pets

This also pertains to enjoying your competitor’s misfortunes. Just because a competitor had a bad quarter, or lost a big deal, does that really mean they’re through? Is there anything positive to come of whistling past the graveyard? Of course not. So before you go spouting off about the competition, think twice. If nothing else, on the off chance there really is such a thing as Karma, do you really want to come back as a caterpillar?


3 Responses to “Respect The Incumbent”

  1. Very good, Mark. It's good to watch the competition, of course, to see what they're doing in case there is something worth learning or to see if there is talent worth knowing and collaborating with. But, that's about it. As a matter of fact, when you see the leadership of one company highlighting the negatives of another company, it's probably time to take a closer look in to what's really going on.

  2. […] Even if you or your company culture isn’t ready for this (very few outside of tech are right now) you need to at least head the advice given by Mark Solon, managing partner at Highway 12 Ventures and respect your competition. […]

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