Bring It On

Party In Private

We'll never know whether Geary dances in his underwear through his house-รก la Risky Business-or Richter screams "I'm da man" after scoring a big deal. That's for them to know and you not to find out. As Richter says, "If my company were an athletic team, when we score, we would try to make it look like we've done it before. We're not the kind of people who do an end-zone dance."

If anybody had an end-zone dance coming to him, it was Jim Heckman when he inked an exclusive deal with Fox Sports to broadcast their events on the Internet. Heckman's Seattle-based company, which, as things would have it, is called Rivals.Com, trumped numerous competitors, including ESPN.com (which is owned by The Walt Disney Company, probably the biggest competitor of all). Nevertheless, Heckman, 34, who once sold his car to start a football magazine, says he had no time to celebrate. "We raised a glass of champagne," Heckman says. "Then I jumped on a plane. That was the celebration."

But when pressed to admit whether he allowed himself to shout "Yee-haw!" in the privacy of his own home, Heckman dodges the question with an explanation of how he felt raising that glass of champagne: "What you really feel is relief, and all of the concern you had felt leaves."

"Your excitement is short-lived," adds Geary, "because as soon as you sit back and bask in the glory, your competitors are making their next move."

Competition Grows Up

Nagel, who travels the globe speaking and consulting on the topic of competition in the 21st century, imagines a Competition Utopia, a land with "no winners and losers," a world in which competition and cooperation go hand in hand and you send care baskets and thank-you notes to your competitors rather than dream about seeing them wearing rags standing in the soup line.

And that vision isn't a view through rose-colored glasses. According to Nagel, it's already happening. Flip through a magazine, he says, and you can see Motorola promoting a Palm Pilot. One World and Star Alliance, Nagel points out, are agreements among individual airlines to cooperate with each other, to help foster smoother flights for their customers.

Somebody, of course, has to make money, and somebody else is going to lose it. But Nagel says the future mind-set will be: "I'm not really willing to backstab you; I'm willing to beat you. But I don't want to do anything that will make me morally unacceptable to be a partner, because I may want to partner with you tomorrow."

Richter echoes that sentiment. "We're on very good terms with competitors who are like us, upstart companies. It's really the entrenched incumbents that tend to resort to either unfair practices or who are dismissive with us. People are in your corner, and they help you out. It's not a zero-sum game."

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bring It On.

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