Extra Points: Do Your Competitors Inspire You? As the National Spelling Bee Co-champions Proved, Sometimes They Can


Christopher Schobert
Director of Communications
June 7, 2019
minutes to read

Pointman’s Extra Points series highlights lessons in leadership inspired by today’s headlines.

TAKEAWAY: Looking at your competitors less as enemies and more as colleagues might help you sleep a little easier — and be more successful.

“We all wanted to win together,” said 13-year-old Christopher Serrao following the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 30. “We were competing together.”

It was a historic ending to the wildly popular event, the first time in the 94-year-old competition in which more than two co-champions were named. Serrao was one of eight — yes, eight — to share the title.

And when the event organizers announced that the competition would end with an eight-way-tie, the participants reacted in a way that might surprise you: they cheered. It was a downright heartwarming display of camaraderie and maturity, the type of behavior that children often display without even thinking. Adults, well, not so much.

It was also one of those perfect how-would-I-have-reacted moments. As a business owner, you know these moments well. You read an article on a blog or hear a speaker at a trade show and then you ask yourself: “How would I have responded in that situation?”

In the case of the National Spelling Bee, the “octochamps” found themselves pulling for their competitors. Yes, after years of training, coaching and studying, the young teens were mature enough to see their fellow contestants not as enemies or threats, but as colleagues.

The 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned eight co-champions for the first time. (Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

So … how do you look at your competitors?

There is no wrong answer to that question, really. But think about the time you spend worrying about your competition, criticizing them and allowing their success to upset you. It’s human to have these feelings, of course. But perhaps your business is better served by a different approach:

  • What can you learn from your competitors?
  • What do they do that’s worth celebrating?
  • How can you take advantage of the successes of others in your field?
  • Can the successes of others help you be even better?

The National Spelling Bee co-champs were genuinely inspired by each other. But that does not mean they lost their individual swagger. “I think most of us knew most of each other’s words,” said 13-year-old Saketh Sundar, “because we’re, like, pretty good.” Admiring the efforts of others, after all, does not mean downplaying your own abilities.

It’s been said that a rising tide lifts all boats. Look at your competitors less as enemies and more as colleagues and you might just sleep a little easier — and be more successful.

At Pointman, our business coaches work closely with members to ensure they have the right processes and approaches in place. Your success is our success — and we’d love to show you what that success can look like.

Look at Pricing

The start of the year is a great time to look at pricing. Usually, you have an idea of how your company fared the year prior, and you want to ensure you will continue to grow in the months to come. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions with respect to spending or saving in our personal lives, and it’s no different for business owners. Making sure your pricing is in line with where it should be is one of the strongest ways to start the year the right way.

Part of looking at your price book is finding where the issues are, and that can take time. An HVAC company in January is going to be very busy, so it’s a difficult time for a close look. However, a plumbing company might not be as busy. Whenever you tackle this job, your best bet is to look at what your labor rates are. Start there, and let it trickle down across the board. Ask yourself, “Are my labor rates helping my business stay profitable?”

Remember, there are many different services out there and many different groups or communities that you can engage. Never hesitate to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner in Florida. What should my labor rates be?” You can build your price from there. There are also some great billable hour calculators available.

Set Goals

There is no better time of year for looking inward than January. Set your personal goals and company goals for the following 12 months. If you can break those down into departmental goals, even better! Perhaps that means a CSR booking closing rates a little better, or a truck doing 250,000 a year rather than 200,000.

Many companies have found that using an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) goal-setting system pays off. Looking for a guidebook when it comes to OKRs? Check out Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr. 

One key question is the best way to handle setting goals: Is it smarter for business owners to handle this solo, together with staff, or to delegate completely? 

The best approach is to set goals at the department level. As an owner, you need to take the time to understand what the goals are in each department, and make sure they are in line with your goals for the company. No one likes to set unattainable goals for themselves, so make sure you push your departments to set goals that are lofty, rather than simple ones to feel good about hitting. Entrust your staff to aim higher, and watch how they respond.

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