Play nice in the sandbox!

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As a business owner of an IT company, you’re going to have competition. This is pretty much guaranteed, regardless of what sector or specialization within IT you have. If you’re in the third party support market, which I am in, then you’ve probably got a lot of competition to deal with. Sometimes the opportunity arises to put down a competitor, so will you seize upon that opportunity or not ?

In my opinion, you should think very carefully before putting down a competitor. There are several things you expose yourself to when you do this. For example, you risk your comments getting back to that competitor. You risk legal liability if you say something that isn’t true. You risk not being able to have that competitor as an ally in the future. Long story short, you risk a lot for a little.

When you speak poorly of another business in your industry, you really don’t get a lot out of it. In the best case scenario, you have a new client who says “yeah, I was using xyz for our tech support and they SUCKED”. If you agree with them and say something along the lines of “I’ve seen their work and they’re terrible! So poorly run and their work is just pathetic!”, what have you accomplished ? Your new client might be glad you agree with them, but it won’t change their expectation of better service. You’re not really getting more money out of your new client by making statements like this, and it’s unlikely that you’ll somehow get more work out of it either.

You need to think about why a client would say these things as well. In almost all cases, a client is saying this to you for one reason: they want you to know that they will terminate the contract with you if you don’t live up to their expectations. They’re letting you know that they’ve already done this once, and they won’t hesitate to do it again.

Keeping this in mind, you have an opportunity to actually gain your client’s respect when this scenario unfolds. Instead of agreeing with them when they make negative comments towards their previous contractors, you could say something along the lines of “well, I’m not sure about your previous experience, but we make sure we’re there to support you in blah blah manner blah blah blah”. Now, you’ve turned the situation into a selling point for yourself and your company, and you’ve let the new client know why choosing you was a good idea on their part.

You’re always going to have competition and you’re always going to have to deal with others in your industry. Bad mouthing everyone else isn’t going to make them go away, and it isn’t going to further your business to any significant degree. Therefore, it makes good business sense to stay away from engaging in these discussions, instead focusing the conversation on YOUR product and YOUR service. Remember, you don’t need to put everyone else out of business to be in business.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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