One-Upping the Competition vs. Serving Your Customer in the Best Possible Way

My son and I recently collaborated on a project. He's a genius with filming and editing, and I've been known to write some sweet copy to help business owners tell their story. Together we created a promotional video for a fellow business owner and in the process of working on that project, we had several conversations about "competition". I'm a few years older than my son {duh}, and have seen competitors come and go a lot more than he has. It's not that I'm not aware of my competition, it's more that I choose to focus on how I can serve my target market in the best possible way, rather than worrying about the competition. Let's face it, there is plenty to worry about for business owners, and once you go down that rabbit hole, you may never come back out again.



For me, it's important to do business based on two things:

1) Base my decisions and the way I do business on my values.

2) Serve my clients in the best possible way to meet their needs, while respecting my values.


And serving my clients in the best possible way? Has everything to do with #1 and 2 above, and nothing with trying to one-up the competition. 


In 2015, Oatmeal Crisp started an advertising campaign, asking men to "One Up Your Bowl". I literally rolled my eyes when I heard that for the first time {and every time since then}. According to an article I found about the campaign, "Oatmeal Crisp ... is targeting men by tapping into the age-old ritual of one-upmanship, described by the brand as “the lifeblood of being a man.” 


Apart from the fact that I don't think one-upmanship is gender-specific, I mainly rolled my eyes at the whole concept of it. Never mind that it fuels the fear of missing out and the need to constantly compete, I also think it’s just plain bad for business. {I don’t know how it worked out for Oatmeal Crisp, I think the concept is bad for your business, and for mine - because it has no room for kindness, and it disregards values. Unless one of your values is to be a douchebag.}


So, instead of one-upping your competition, try onedownmanship for a change! To be honest, I had to google it to make sure that onedownmanship is even a thing - and as it turns out, it is. This is what Urban Dictionary has to say about it:


(wun-doun'-man-ship') noun. The practice of outdoing an opponent in a negative way; performing less well than an inferior player or team.


“When the Pacers got blown out by the lowly Knicks -- at home no less -- it was a classic case of onedownmanship.”


#underachiever #nonperformer #failure #disappointment #ne'er-do-well


Ouch. Pretty negative. Nothing you would want to be associated with, eh? Disappointment. Failure. Nonperformer. Do it anyway. Embrace onedownmanship and practice that instead of one-upmanship for a change. Why? Because onedownmanship is a great business mindfulness and awareness practise. Yup, really. Constantly competing for the sake of competition does not focus on what’s actually best for your business and your client. You don’t call the shots anymore, you’re just trying to keep up. 


This works for your business and for your personal life. Make it a point to do something for the love of it, instead of trying to outperform everyone. Honour someone’s story, instead of pushing your own. Say "awesome, good for you!", instead of "I did it better than you". Make it a point to really listen to your customer and find the best possible solution for them, rather than chasing all the shiny things your competition is doing, and trying to top them.


Of course there still has to be competition in the world; I'm a firm believer that it helps us innovate, excel, and get shit done. But I'm also a firm believer that there is a time and place for it. We don't have to be "on" and ready to one-up someone else at all times. Nothing wrong with setting a goal and wanting to excel - but how about basing it on what your business is really good at, and what you customers need, instead of measuring it against someone else's achievements?


The next time you feel that itch to one-up your competition, do this instead:

  • Pause for a moment and acknowledge your feelings
  • Ask yourself why you feel that way
  • Find out what your client actually needs and which problem you can solve for them
  • Focus on that and be awesome for your client
  • Debrief and be aware what you learned from the situation

The point is not to teach your competition a lesson and guilt them into onedownmanship. It’s about you learning how you react to situations that make you itch to one-up them, and how you can stay focused on what is essential for your business and your client and move forward from there. 


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