For the past couple of weeks, the London Olympics have been the main topic on most people’s lips.
I’m proud of the success of the London Olympics, from the point of view of the number of medals won by Team GB, and also for the wonderful experience shared by all who attended as participants or spectators.
However, apart from going out to watch the Olympic flame on its journey down the River Thames from Hampton Court, and catching the Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony on TV, our house has been a predominantly Olympic-free zone.
I’m just not a sports fan. And what’s more, I’m not all that keen on competition - and, after all, that’s what the Olympics is all about. Or is it?
There have been some great stories of athletes beating world records and their own personal best performances. But the story that touched my heart was not about winning medals or beating records.
It was the story of 17 year-old Meghan Vogel, who helped a fellow competitor across the line in the 3,200 meter run. Admittedly, she was in last place – perhaps if it had been the difference between winning a gold or silver medal, she might have behaved differently.
Nevertheless, Arden McMath, who was one place in front of her, was struggling to complete the final 20 meters – so when Meghan caught up with her, rather than overtaking her, she put Arden’s arm around her shoulder and helped her to the finish line. Not only that – Meghan pushed Arden over the finish line ahead of herself, and finished last.
Like I said, Meghan was in last place anyway, but she could easily have passed by her competitor in order to get the best possible time for her own race. But she didn’t. Instead she behaved in a “sportsmanlike” manner. She behaved with humanity.
All too often, in business, I hear people talking about “driving the competition into the ground”, or being afraid of the competition taking work away. I know times are tough at the moment – but I still believe there is enough work to go round, if we behave with humanity, instead of trying to undercut our competitors at every opportunity.
Price cutting merely reduces the perceived value of what we do – and in the long run, everyone will suffer. The suppliers will suffer, because the market will settle on a lower price level in the future. And the customers will suffer because, if the price drops too low, then the quality of the product or service also drops, to make it viable for the supplier.
At times like this, it’s worth looking at your competitors as potential allies with complementary skills that will make your proposition more attractive to your clients. In times of recession and economic downturn, it’s the suppliers who come up with creative solutions that will succeed.
Think “co-operation“. Instead of competing with other people in your field, how can you come up with ways to help each other across the finishing line?