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Una’s spotlight: Being competitive or bullying?

Did you know that the original meaning of to compete is ‘to serve better’?

Not according to South Africa’s communications company Telkom, which was fined £35M for using it’s dominant market position to “bully” competitors (see the recent BBC news story).

As a fixed line operator the company was battling against mobile operators and retaliated by charging too much for internet access.

A fair response some might say but is it really? When people – and their organisations – feel desperate, feel a big sense of lack then that is probably the space that they are going to respond from.

But where does that leave the customer? What impact does that have on innovation in the marketplace when one organisation looks to block competition?

The fact is that when it comes to David and Goliath situations in business, these days David has a good a chance as any. The internet has lowered barriers to entry in many markets and social media facilitates huge followings where there is strong passion and a great idea.

Anybody who has the drive and the will can deconstruct an industry and change the marketplace. Your industry could be next if it isn’t happening already…

Telecoms is one typical example of such massive change and there are many more. For instance what happens when lots of people are getting much of their energy from their buildings (via solar panels, etc) and selling it back to the utilities companies? Will the utilities change their focus to renewable energy and/or helping home owners and businesses to be more green? Or perhaps they’ll enter new industries that they can add value to in the way they did in their current market.

Thinking this is a bit extreme? The typical response to a new idea is for people to laugh and pour scorn, then a few people respond positively while others shake their heads in wonder and finally everybody accepts it as a way of life.

The fact is that any new idea with merit will eventually happen – ignoring it is not the solution, not in the long term anyway.

So what if your focus was less on blocking your competition and more on the ways that you could add more value to your customers? That is how to have a bigger share in the marketplace.

The one thing that will put you and your organisation ahead of the game is to be playing on a different field entirely. Do it right and suddenly you’ll find that you have more loyal spectators coming to see you play.

Perhaps in doing this you may even discover what you thought of as your biggest competitor, could actually be your greatest ally…

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