Enemy Mine

Learning to live with the competitors you love to hate
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Thinking about the war with Iraq got Michael D. Alter, senior vice president and founding member of SurePayroll in Skokie, Illinois, pondering the business lessons of conflict:

Do we need enemies in business? My company, SurePayroll, competes with ADP and Paychex, the No. 1 and No. 2 payroll companies in the country. SurePayroll is No. 6, having gotten there by driving in ADP and Paychex's blind spot: We cater exclusively to small businesses. ADP and Paychex probably don't think about SurePayroll too often, but I think about them all the time. Having an enemy motivates me. Our screen saver shows David (SurePayroll) using a slingshot to knock out two Goliaths (ADP and Paychex).

Now, here's the thing. I've got kids, and like most parents, my wife and I try to teach them to be good to others. Yet, at the office, I'm fighting. Fighting ADP and Paychex. Fighting to win customers. I read the business headlines, and everybody's fighting: Coke vs. Pepsi; McDonald's vs. Burger King; Apple vs. IBM.

But the war in Iraq got me thinking. Remember how our government demonized the Russians during the Cold War? Then it turned out they were just good people like us. As I think about this, I realize I don't want to put ADP or Paychex out of business. Their employees are good people, just like us. Rather than eliminating each other, we can work together. After all, according to the SBA, small businesses account for more than 99.7 percent of employers. That means plenty of prospective clients.

We estimate outsourcing payroll saves a small business $4,200 a year. I think about ADP, Paychex and SurePayroll working together to provide that savings to small businesses, and it makes me feel good. The pie is plenty big for all of us.

Now, instead of battling ADP and Paychex, we're refocusing our energies on making life better for small businesses. We're uninstalling the David and Goliath screen saver. The mandate for a new one? Keep it motivating, focus on the customer and make it peaceful.

More from Entrepreneur

Elizabeth's expertise can help you scale your business, build a personal brand and focus on being a value-driven CEO.
Book Your Session

For a limited time only, get this bundle of Entrepreneur PressĀ® titles for less than $30 (60% OFF) on our bookstore when you use "LEAP" at checkout.
Buy Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.