Every sports fan knows the story of a sports team competitively peaking at the right time on the road to winning a championship. The Pittsburgh Steelers won the 2006 Super Bowl even though they only had the second best record in their division. In addition, they had to overcome the huge hurdle of playing three straight playoff games on the road in front of hostile crowds. Entering the tournament, the Steelers were not favorites to win a championship. But they did.

The level of competition they faced brought out the best in the Steelers.
In any field competition is needed to enhance the vitality of the participants. A capitalist economy thrives on the ability of individuals, enterprises and organizations to compete, some winning, some failing, all contributing to the fresh flow of innovation that is the lifeblood of a vibrant society.

Entrepreneurs are the key purveyors of new ideas and creativity, especially in the United States. The fact that competition is so brutal, aggressive and pervasive for new opportunities is of great benefit in keeping entrepreneurs sharp, motivated and cutting edge. Inventors must anticipate that competitors will make every attempt to circumvent the novel features included in their product. This anticipation motivates them to create value-added features that further answer the competition and provide consumers with fresh utility and novelty.

Why is private enterprise vastly more efficient than public organizations. The most elemental answer: competition! There is one inefficient Post Office. There are many competitors in the package delivery service (FedEX, DHL, UPS, etc.) The Post Office is subsidized: the private firms must fight it out for market share, efficiencies and profit. They can go out of business, the Post Office never will.

Every state run airline (Alitalia, Air France, Varig, etc.) is bankrupt. At the same time new private carriers (Easy Jet, Ryan Air, etc.) are entering the market and thriving. Competition creates opportunities and penalizes static business models.

Computer Associates, Wang, Digital Equipment, Gateway and many other companies, were ahead of Dell Computer in assembling and marketing the personal computer. Dell has succeeded spectacularly while almost all of the early leading pioneers are either out of business, significantly downsized, or merged. Dell entered this brutally competitive product category with a fresh business model (customization of production and direct selling). This disruptive model has proven wildly profitable and popular with consumers. Dell continues to evolve and enter new technologies in a never-ending effort to constantly reinvent and remain competitive.

35 years ago Revlon was the dominant cosmetic brand in the world. Ultima was Revlon’s luxury powerhouse, the Revlon brand dominated the middle market and Realistic was a powerhouse in beauty salons. The founder of Revlon, Charles Revson, was an innovator and a visionary. He once famously commented, “I don't sell lipstick, I sell hope”! Sadly after his death 25 years ago, the Company was run by a series of financial bean counters. Innovation was minimized. Risk was out. Revlon has not had a major product success since the fragrance Charlie, over 25 years ago. Today, Revlon is but a shell of it’s former glorious self. Ultima does not even exist. Innovative competitors like Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Redken and Paul Mitchell, Mac, Bobbie Brown and many more have chipped and picked until Revlon is almost a corpse. Competition forces business to innovate, and evolve, or die: witness Revlon.

Many entrepreneurs fear competition for understandable reasons. Many have weak intellectual property protection. They fear a larger, mature business attacking them head on with a version of their product. The constant worry of being overwhelmed by a rival with deeper resource levels is daunting. Nevertheless, the lesson to be learned from competition is simple: it is always going to be there and it must be faced with courage and creativity.

Sticking one’s head in the sand is not a realistic response to competitive threats. They are real and pervasive. The “survival of the fittest” does not apply only to the natural world but is just as applicable to the business world. In order to be one of the fittest, the entrepreneur must remain innovative and think outside the box. As Satchel Paige said, “don’t look back, somebody might be gaining on you”. I like, “you are never the greatest, only the latest”.

The successful entrepreneur is always seeking ways to improve their business model, add features, advance performance and anticipate strategy competitors might utilize to overcome their market advantages. The ability to survive and prosper requires entrepreneurs to be flexible, quick and opportunistic, all qualities that bigger rivals usually lack. Take advantage of your entrepreneurial instincts. Large entities typically make decisions by committee and consensus. Speed and agility are your natural advantages.

Competition keeps the economic blood running free and pure. When an entrepreneur succeeds it is easy to identify the elements most responsible for that success. Equally important is for every failure to become an educational opportunity. It is all right to make mistakes: once! Learn from mistakes and do not repeat them.

Competition insures that our modern world is continually advancing, improving and editing out the weak, thus rewarding and encouraging the strong. The benefits competition provides a free economy is reflective in the vitality and prosperity of the population. Compare this with state controlled countries where central planning eliminates any of the creativity and disruptive innovation provided by entrepreneurs. No competition creates a disincentive to growth, opportunity and the healthy economic life so essential to human contentment.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. (www.duquesamarketing.com) has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.