How to Destroy the Granite Walls of Competition

12 steps on winning in a constantly changing industry

I strongly believe that if we are not forcing our own obsolescence, our competition is doing it for us. These words apply whether you’re a CE manufacturer, retailer, dealer or distributor. Each day the phrase takes on greater meaning and importance as we collectively troll through a rough-and-tumble business defined by constant change.

First of all, it’s an honor to contribute to Dealerscope, a publication with complementary digital assets that has served my teams well for the last two decades in our quest to build brand, accelerate product push and gain competitive channel advantage. My leadership experience as executive vice president of ViewSonic, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics, and senior vice president of Circuit City informs my CE-centric observations that focus on exploring and sharing best-of-breed practices that are designed to break through competitive granite walls.

Frankly, if you do not have a competitor, you should consider inventing one. Perhaps create a new sub-brand designed to compete with your own core offerings. This strategy can open highly viable opportunities for market expansion.

From a competitive standpoint, I agree with the sagacity of Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel, who once said, “In business, only the paranoid survive.” The gravitas of paranoia, defined as “excessive suspicion of the motives of others,” is alive and well in American businesses—at least in those businesses that are transcending formidable competitors through channels of distribution.

Based on this definition, count me in as a card-carrying business paranoiac, or at least an aspiring trainee. How about you?

People on tenterhooks are usually highly focused, and with an unyielding determination to succeed. When you ask brilliant, paranoid leaders, “Why do you push so hard against the granite wall of competition?” the overwhelming answer is: “It is the fear of losing that drives my determination to win, to smash down that granite wall.”

Peter Weedfald is President of Gen One Ventures, a sales, marketing and brand-product consulting company. He has served as SVP, Chief Marketing Officer of Circuit City, SVP of Sales and Marketing in North America for Samsung, and SVP of global marketing and EEVP, GM & Chief Marketing Officer for ViewSonic.
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  • Robert Heiblim

    Well put Peter and the type of advice I give and advocate. Again, far too little facts or reflection come into planning and execution as I speak to players within the industry. A good dose of facts and a good long look at what one is doing is great tonic and motivation to move the meter in the right direction. Thanks!

  • Jason Briggs

    We are often hardest on ourselves, but learning how to constructively
    arrive at our best thru self reflection to a fine art.

    Humility, flexibility and rationality seems to be great places to start & continue to repeat.

    Excellent 12 rules & I’ve written them on the back of my hand.

  • John Smith

    Very succinct and direct Peter. I particularly liked your insights on challenging the business model from within to stay ahead of the competition and develop new and complementary lines of business. There’s a great example of this in the railroad industry. Traditionally, the largest client of the railroad business was the US Post office who essentially aggregated communications "data," consolidated it for bulk transport by the railroads then distributed to recipients. Back in the ’70s, Southern Pacific Railroad took a creative look at itself and figured that their collection of rights of way and intercity runs were a strategic asset that could be used for electronic data. They strung fiber optic cable along them and offered private line service to companies looking for a low cost alternative to AT&T long distance branding the service Sprint (Southern Pacific Railroad Intercontinental Network of Telecommunications). With deregulation, they expanded into switched lines, data services and mobile data communications, technologies that have sharply reduced the volume and importance of the mail business for SP. It’s a great example of the benefits of creative destruction advocated in the column.

  • Bruce Ginsberg, Emanate

    Great piece – Sage advice, succinctly expressed by a leading strategic marketer and visionary. Thanks for breaking it down and providing real action steps that if followed cannot help but produce the desired result.

  • Joe Kreder

    Sound advice on taking down the "granite wall". The 12 steps should be intuitive but they are often overlooked due to focusing externally and not taking a hard look internally. Great job summarizing key process steps for having competitive advantage in the marketplace.

  • Rob Madonna

    I have followed Peter’s pragmatic wisdom for over a decade now. What strikes me is your ability to get to the core and communicate it concisely. As a market insight professional I especially appreciate that you encourage research as a critical investment to breaking through the granite wall. Studying competitors’ advantages and disadvantages, developing core communications and advertising that focus on and burnish the value of product & brand in all relevant markets; even establishing a war room — market insights, conducted properly will contribute to this success formula. I also liked the suggestion to establish a budget so team members can buy & use competitive products/services as well as their own. This type of ethnographic/observational research can only enhance what is learned when utilized in partnership with the traditional and evolving approaches to insight gathering. Dealerscope readers are going to benefit from this and I expect future thoughts from Peter.

  • Mike Feng

    Inspirational and to-the-point!
    I enjoy reading it and recommend the 12 steps mentioned as a guidance for folks in B-to-C CE business.

  • Steven Aquino

    "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer" Famous words to live by and thanks to Peter we have the rule book to follow!

  • http://MikeNoblit Mike Noblit

    I thought the article was compelling, and in typical Peter fashion – insightful. The chase is always a lot easier – you have your competitors in sight and you zig and zag with them to jockey for position. I always thought the marathon example best illustrates how most world class runners never like to lead. They follow, pace, and then make their move in the closing mile. The leader has all the stress – where to go, how fast to run, and hearing the footsteps behind him. Following (chasing) is easy – leading is hard.

    Internal pressure is the hallmark of a good company. Assessing S/W internally is as important as externally … as Peter points out. Remember the “catfish” analogy: “Bunch of lackadaisical mudfish swimming around in a pond – sometimes so disconnected with their reality they sink into the mud and die. Toss a catfish into the pond, and the mudfish are always under pressure and therefore stay alive.” So true – pressure pushes the best companies (and managers) to excel above expectations.

    The engagement rules highlight what companies do to gain market share, customer respect, and avoid obsolescence. The particular emphasis on the customer follows Peter’s personal commitment to always put the customer in front – without them we are nothing. Identify the gap with your competitors and find a way to fill it.

    Pls keep them coming.

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    Hey this article and website in general is wonderful! Great info and Great Tips! Check us out! – Futuristic Gadgets for a Modern Lifestyle! Say Good Bye to Best Buy!!

  • jeffoheir

    Gang: Thanx for all the great feedback. I’ll post Peter’s next column soon. Keep the conversation going!