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Editorial: January-February 2011

Can you relate?

February 15, 2011  By Mike Davey

It’s amazing how much a shift in perspective can change everything.

It’s amazing how much a shift in perspective can change everything. Changing how you view your business can have positive effects throughout the entire organization, as long as you take the time to communicate that shift to your colleagues.

There are a lot of people who view business as a sort of battlefield. Markets and potential customers are viewed as territory to be conquered (or lost). Managers build armies of employees, and duke it out both within the company and outside of it.

Competitors are seen as the enemy, even when they’re not, and the soldiers wait around for orders, even when they know exactly what to do and how to do it.


There are likely some advantages to be had by looking at business as a war. One word of caution, though: don’t let your customers know that you think of them as being conquered. You might find that the military occupation wasn’t very thorough, and that they’ve suddenly gone over to “the enemy.”

There’s at least one other way to view business. Instead of seeing it as a battlefield, try to look at the industry as a community. True, some members of the community may have interests that are diametrically opposed to your own. But that’s probably true only some of the time. At other times, you might find that you have a lot in common, and can work together to reach your goals.

Business can be viewed as a series of relationships, just like those found in any community. Building strong relationships among all parts of the community means a stronger community overall. A strong tide raises all boats.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should invite all of your competitors into the office and let them start pawing through your records. That would be stupid. However, maybe it’s time to stop thinking of them as the enemy, and start thinking of them as potential friends.

When your company and the competition are vying for a big contract, it may be tempting to talk of winning and losing. But those terms really aren’t appropriate. If you don’t get the contract, you haven’t lost anything that you had to begin with. If you do get the contract, you haven’t won, because it’s not a game that can be won. Chances are that you got the contract because you offered something the other guy didn’t.

In a lot of cases, what the “winner” offered was a real relationship. We would all rather do business with someone we know. Low bids and/or high-quality work will only take you so far. People want to know you.

If you decide to change your attitude, you’ve got to make sure to let your staff know too. If you’re trying to build relationships, and they’re trying to fight a war, you might end up with some problems on your hands.

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