The essence of entrepreneurship is a free exchange of value or what the Romans called quid pro quo (literally this for that). An exchange of value with a customer or a partner can leave both of you better off: both winners, neither a loser. In a zero sum game like tic-tac-toe or chess one sides’ gain is the other’s loss.
Too often I see entrepreneurs who focus on “beating the competition” and ignoring the opportunities that they have to learn from their customers, prospects, competitors, non-customers, and competitors customers.
As a startup you don’t have to beat your competition everywhere, you just have to carve out enough space to live by offering more value than the status quo. One useful way of defining what constitutes a “better mousetrap” is to look for people with a mouse problem who are unsatisfied by current solutions, these are “non-customers.” They could be your customers with some effort.
I think more business challenges revolve around reaching a negotiated solution with employees, partners, and customers. When we say we “won” the business it means that we have reached an agreement with a customer as much as “winning a victory” over competitors.
Business competition looks more like a relay race, where teams need to pass the baton among all of the members to get across the finish line. This looks like the challenge of taking part in a supply chain or software stack.
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