In this post I’m going to talk about how to view competitors or rather frenemies.
But first an update. I’m just back from New York where I had both a great time and also the chance to witness my team doing a major cutover of hundreds of staffing companies from a mainframe system over to TempWorks. It’s really humbling to see how developers less than 10 years out of college including my own 23-year-old daughter can code circles around me.
The good thing though was that having a great team in place I had the chance to escape a little to midtown Manhattan for an evening that included Mass at St Patrick’s (great liturgy, sermon, music but the SWAT team waiting outside afterwards spooked me). It also included a lunch at my grandfather’s namesake “Angelo’s Pizza” on 57th street.
The hardest thing for me about going out to eat in New York is picking where to go. Right in that Angelo area – it’s a bit off the major shopping area of 5th Ave. – there are dozens of the best restaurants in the world. How is it that all these great restaurants decided to locate themselves right next to their top competitors?
That’s what Frenemies is all about. “Frenemies” is a word I copped off of Mark Suster, a VC and a great writer (a must read for startups). Having competitors is proof that you’re in a market of substance.
Those great restaurants around Angelos are forcing each other to get better and better. And by being better, they’ve created yet a bigger market than ever would have been, causing foodies all over the world to flock there because of and not in spite of the competition.
Personally I love it when I lose to a competitor because how else better to know that we have a weakness or that there is an underserved community out there?
Calling competitors Frenemies isn’t a cop out. It isn’t a sign of limpdickedness (sure to be the word of the year sometime soon). Let me compromise on the vulgarity by pointing out a more refined way of saying that…en français “la-peur-de-qu’en dira-t-on”.
Taking a positive attitude towards competition gives you the chance to spell out in a constructive fashion the difference between you and a competitor. James Tamplin, an ex-TempWorks developer now running a startup, Envolve, in Silicon Valley recently provided a great example of this on Quora.
He wasn’t bashing his competitor Meebo; he was just pointing out in simple language how his product was different. Meebo and the rest of the frenemy social networking products out there have created a notion in the popular consciousness of what it is they do and how they can help their clients.
So should staffing companies be worried about competition? As the economy improves we’ll be seeing a lot more competition than in past years in staffing. The rate of start up activity is mind-boggling right now. But that competition is a also a sign that staffing as a market is being revitalized.
So let’s raise our hands in the air sometimes and thank our frenemies.