Get in the Ring

A weak economy can make you strong-if you've got the guts to go in for the kill.

It was 1933. Charles Guth, president of a candy company, was desperately trying to get rid of a long-unprofitable product. He approached his nemesis, rival candy company president Ernest Woodruff, held up the white flag and offered to sell. Woodruff probably laughed. Guth was hawking a lousy brand with no future. So Woodruff refused, and the product lived on.

And that's why we're still drinking Pepsi.

Competition. Its praises are as plentiful as Pepsi. Typical are the words of Bill Dueease, an entrepreneur coach and owner of The Coach Connection in Fort Myers, Florida: "When a company focuses on crushing the competition, they take sight off what the real objective is-which is to improve themselves. You want competition. You have to have competition."

Dueease has a point. Competition can be your friend. But if you were to find a spiritual medium and contact Ernest Woodruff's soul, the former Coca-Cola CEO would probably own up that he made a colossal mistake in not crushing Pepsi when he had the chance.

So for those of you who aren't content to merely survive, but who want to take the offensive and obliterate the company stealing your sales, your employees and your customers, here's the first rule of crushing the competition: If a rival company is lying there on the floor dying like a little bug, step on it.

It only sounds mean. "Our attitude is that you have a moral responsibility to crush the competition," says Jay Abraham, a consultant and author of Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition (St. Martin's Press). "You have that responsibility if you care more, if you provide more value and if you revere the client at a higher level."

You don't have to go to the dark side and cut your competitor's phone lines or go into a bathroom and write, "For a good time, call [insert competitor's CEO's name here]." But if you believe you're Luke Skywalker and that your rival makes Darth Vader seem like a stand-up guy, then grab your lightsaber and get ready to destroy the Death Star.

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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 October 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Get in the Ring.

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