Published on: September 16, 2008by Michael Sansolo
This week’s column is dedicated to the Ohio State University football team, not that they care. It’s a strange subject for me because I really don’t follow Ohio State and I’m not much of a fan of college football. Now, while there’s always danger in writing what you don’t know, I figure I crossed that line for good a few months back when I wrote about pantyhose.
The thing is, I do however love writing about competition and a great example should never be left alone.
So I was fascinated this past week with the hoopla surrounding the game between Ohio State and the University of Southern California. It was a voluntary game, in that neither team had to schedule the other. Usually they don’t play unless they are paired in a post-season game. But at times, the top schools meet voluntarily, such as happened this weekend when OSU traveled from Columbus to get manhandled in Los Angeles.
And I’m thinking it was a good thing.
The reasoning is this. OSU is a dominant team in its conference, the Big 10, but football there is frequently criticized as less creative than in other parts of the country. From what I hear on sports talk radio (the source of all relevant knowledgeable), Florida teams have the speed and western teams have the creativity. The Midwest has great players, but more conservative plans that fail when those teams travel south and west.
Now, OSU had no need to schedule USC. It could have found many other respectable teams to play last week. The Buckeyes could have scored a ton of points and probably watched their rank rise a little. Instead, they got beaten and they are better for it.
Competition, difficult as it may be, is a good thing. Competition makes us stronger, sharper and more creative. Competition focuses us and helps us push to new levels. Yes, it’s a headache, but it’s also a motivator.
Think of your market, whatever your market is. Without competition or with weak competition, you would probably be a lot happier and more profitable. I know many companies that chuckle when they think they have the perfect competitor - a weak number two company in their market that fills up space while not causing major problems. It is a great scenario, but only for a while.
And that’s where we have to think about OSU. Like them, we should be benchmarking against the best competition, even if it means traveling across the country to get our head knocked off or turned by a great example. By benchmarking the best, we learn and we grow.
In the retail industry, it’s not even hard. We should all be out there, checking out the newest and latest stores. We should be visiting Wegmans or Dorothy Lane; the Apple Store or Whole Foods, Costco, Winco or Tesco; or even Cabellas and Bass Pro Shops. We should also be looking at successful products and services in all parts of the economy.
We should all be talking with our business partners and asking them to honestly rate us against the best, so we can find out how to grow and improve. Wherever there’s a good lesson, we should be studying even if the lesson doesn’t represent the business you are pursuing.
Benchmarking the best might be intimidating and even frightening. But it guarantees to be instructive and that makes us better tomorrow than we are today.
Sure, Ohio State got clobbered this past weekend. But in truth, the Buckeyes were big winners because their future might have just been changed. Sometimes losing can be a good thing.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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