Jul 9th, 2021 | How To Create a Business Development Strategy As a Person Who Never Competes
How To Create a Business Development Strategy As a Person Who Never Competes
I wrote on this blog before about how not to do business (e.g., in the posts “How (Not) to Build a Business” and “5 ‘Best’ Business Models in the World“). So perhaps, now it’s time to share my opinion about how to actually do it!
The other day, while working on the test booklet for my new baby, The ODYSSEY Test, I was watching Muhammad Ali’s famous fights against Joe Frazier and George Foreman. These are some of the most iconic events in the history of boxing. The “Rumble in the Jungle” fight against George Foreman (1974) had an estimated television audience of 1.5 billion viewers. It was about 40% of the world population at a time. Due to some estimates, it was roughly 100% of the population with access to TV (!). In other words, EVERYONE watched the fight.
And yet I was sitting there watching two guys punching each other, and I was massively unimpressed. And it came to my mind that it was not just that one fight. In fact, I never enjoyed watching sports. I just don’t get the concept of competing against another person of your own will. It might be a weird thing to say for a person who owns a company. Yet, it’s true.
How It All Started
For my whole life, I was focused on personal development. At the same time, I was actively avoiding competing against others. In the beginning of primary school, I despised the physical education class. After the warmup, the teachers were always dividing us into teams and let us play against each other in all kinds of nonsensical games. We were only six or seven years olds. Yet, we were playing against each other every time instead of just moving and enjoying our time together.
The other day, the teachers have set a particularly awful game for us. Namely, they put a narrow school bench on a mattress and told us to stand on it against each other. The first person to fall from the bench was the person to lose the match. The teachers wanted us to play against each other in the Swiss system. Winner against winner for as long as it takes before the eventual champion is pronounced. The bench was only 40-50 cm tall but the bare feeling of standing in the air was scary enough to twist my stomach. My opponent also looked scared, balancing on the bench and afraid to approach me. This contest was madness.
I thought to myself, “I have to end this bullshit.” So, I approached the other girl and… kicked her in the chest. Just as expected, she landed on the mattress in a blink of an eye. And since no one else was willing to stand on the bench against me, I won by walkover. Interestingly, the contest never came back.
How Not To Compete In a Competitive School
To my luck, I soon learned that since my vision was impaired, I could free myself from the necessity to play any sports that involved a ball. A hit with a ball might potentially put pressure on my fragile retina, which would put my sight in jeopardy. Since then, I was pausing during all the group sports. Instead of competing, I was reading books or serving as a referee.
At school, I didn’t compete either. I had the best grades in the whole school year by year, so there was no one to compete with anyways. I was only interested in reaching a higher average score than the year before. At the end of primary school, I got to 6.0, which was the highest possible grade in the Polish school system. So, there was nothing else for me to improve. Fortunately, the school ended at that point as well.
In high school, I completely dropped out of the physical education class, under the same excuse as before. It was only an excuse, but it worked just perfectly. I also came to the conclusion that if I don’t exercise but also don’t eat, then I won’t gain weight and I will save time twice. And then, I could read more books instead. So, I didn’t exercise and I didn’t eat but rather, I studied. Of course, it wasn’t a healthy lifestyle and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. However, I had a strong resolution to get to the only interfaculty studies in Poland available at a time as I felt that this would make me free. And I did.
Adult Life As a Person Who Doesn’t Compete
Then, when I got to the university, I chose the individual, interfaculty study track as planned. I chose it mostly because there was no single major that would fully satisfy my appetite to learn. However, it was also partially because I didn’t want to be compared. Namely, to found myself in a classroom together with other youngsters, receive the same set of lectures and exams, compare grades, and compete for the same stipends. I felt more free and relaxed knowing that I was one of a kind. I had my own, individual study program, and I don’t need to race against anyone. Yes, I had to take on some extra effort to belong to this elite college, but it was worth it – I had my own path to go.
When I entered graduate school, I also made sure that the topic of my PhD was unique. What I was doing was different from what all the other students in the lab were doing. It was quite isolating, but on the other hand, I felt safer this way. My project was challenging and frustrating at times. But after all, I felt that I had my own piece of floor that no one would ever step onto. In large and hectic labs people often step on each other’s feet and jeopardize each other’s projects — but it was never the case for me.
How Not To Race For a House
In grad school, I also bought a house. In the Netherlands, houses are typically listed by real estate agents at the most popular website called Funda. When a new house appears on the market, buyers start bidding against each other. Of course, the highest bid wins the competition, and the rest of the bidders walk away with nothing.
Needless to say, I despised the concept of racing for a house from the beginning. I didn’t even have money to compete. It was the first half of 2015, and the house prices were starting to blow up. I knew in which quarter of the city I wanted to get a house. But I also knew that as soon as the bidders start racing, the price will skyrocket beyond my reach.
Therefore, I decided to get a house in another way. I printed about 900 leaflets with the information that I was looking for a house and my nice smile next to it. And then, I distributed the leaflets around my favorite quarter. About 10 people called me saying that they happened to have a house for sale. One of these people was the owner of the house which I eventually bought. We met, I loved the house, and we just shook hands. No competition whatsoever. Funny enough, the owner got the idea of selling this house only after he read my leaflet. Why compete if you can just ask and get what you want!
No Sports For Me, Thanks
No surprise that I also don’t do any competitive sports. The only activity that could be considered a sport that I’ve ever done was walking long distances (e.g., 4daagse). Here in the Netherlands, it is a form of a sport in which everyone who reaches the finish line in time and doesn’t faint, wins. In that sense, you don’t really compete against other people, only against yourself. I also dance or hike sometimes. Or, go to sauna. Or, get on a treadmill. That would be it.
I also don’t watch competitive sports on the media. I cannot understand why this even fascinates people. It’s a game of sum zero after all – when one team wins, the other one has to lose. No value is added in the process. The current football madness called Euro 2020 is way beyond the capacity of my little brain. I just don’t get the point of it all… I would rather watch a transmission from a novel operation in neurosurgery or a launch of a new space shuttle than this.
Lastly, I avoid competition in every way, shape, or form. While playing board games with friends, I usually let them win because I simply don’t care about the outcome. And I don’t understand why people who had many partners before, are perceived as attractive. If you have to do with someone who dated 20 people before, you will be compared to 20 people. What’s the point of packing yourself into that? The less the better.
Start With Why
Funny enough, my father is a professional chess player. All he ever does in life is competing, or teaching children how to compete. We had some heated discussions about the point of it all, but apparently, we differ in life philosophy; he sees something noble in combat while I do not.
So, how did it happen that a person who never competes, started a company? Well, I never intended to compete with anyone. When I deliberated which way to go after my PhD, I started from defining a lifestyle I wanted the most. It happened to be living in a house somewhere in the woods in the deep suburbs of I-don’t-know-where. And, working in a pendulum system in which I would be spending two weeks every month on people: events, conferences, workshops, meetups, business deals, travels, concerts. And, the remaining two weeks I could spend at home, resting, recharging, processing, and creating new content based on everything I’ve learned in the meantime. Meditating, chilling in the sauna, reading, writing.
I soon realized that the only way to reach that lifestyle was to become independent in one way or another. There was just no other way, especially provided that I wanted to have a free choice of people to work with, and projects to work on.
How To Create a Business Development Strategy In a Non-Competitive Way
The popular belief is that business is war. No wonder that I hesitated whether or not it’s worth starting. Me and business? How to become a business developer if you never compete? That sounded like a ridiculous idea at first. However, after giving it a thought, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to compete, but I could cooperate instead.
I started my activities by creating services for PhD changing career paths. I built expertise in that area, and I felt this is the area where I can provide value the fastest. And then, instead of competing with other people in the same space, I started inviting them to visit my microscopic YouTube channel. And in general, my aim behind even setting the channel in the first place was making friends and producing good karma rather than promoting myself. I also started recommending their people’s services on my company website for free. I found all the available resources for PhDs changing careers and I cited them all in my book.
New And Different Rather Than Better and Bigger
And, I always try to create products that are different from what is available. I just like to think that it’s better to become the first one in the world doing something rather than compete with others and argue who is the best.
The test I created and launched just recently, The ODYSSEY Test, is one example of this strategy. Instead of creating yet another aptitude test diagnosing your personality type, ranking your professional skills, or proposing a list of professions based on your list of skills, I spotted an important question that wasn’t answered just yet.
Namely, how to discover your natural way of creating value for other people, and how to determine in which working environment you will be appreciated the most? There is no other tool to approach these questions, therefore, it’s not a race. And instead of criticizing other tools, I recommend them as complementary to ODYSSEY.
Red Ocean vs Blue Ocean. How How Create The Best Business Development Strategy Today?
And I believe in the Blue Ocean Strategy as the best way of creating a business development strategy. According to this concept, you can create an uncontested business by unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant – and cooperate with others rather than compete. In blue oceans, demand is created rather than fought over. So, it’s one way how to become a business developer with focus on creating new products rather than competing.
Peter Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal and one of the most successful investors in the Bay Area, likes to say that “competition is for losers.” In his view, companies which thrive, provide with something more than just outrunning competition: qualitative innovation that offers something new.
And frankly speaking, especially small businesses get penalized for competing today. In many ways. Paradoxically, the more competitive field, the more it pays off to collaborate. It is hard to start a business without partnerships. It is hard to build organic traffic without back links. Google will penalize your SEO if you don’t link to trusted websites. The more of a linchpin to other small businesses you become, the more visible and trusted you are.
And I can testify that this approach works. So far so good. In two years of producing new stuff, I’ve never had a situation when I would have a conflict of interest with any other business developer. I was only making friends and deals on the way. And I believe that with a little bit of thinking, competition is never truly necessary in business.
How To Create a Business Development Strategy As a Person Who Never Competes: Conclusions
And lastly, there is a lot of misconception about people who don’t compete. I don’t know how many times I was called meek, not ambitious, or lacking integrity just because I didn’t want to get onto a sports pitch and play. But when you meet a person who avoids competition, they are not necessarily shy or insecure. Perhaps they are just intelligent and know what is important to them, and what is not.
And, personal development, kindness and non-competitive attitude also have their own merit and pay off in the long run. Especially when you start your business operations without funds, you need to rely on personal relations and build as many partnerships as possible. I like to think that there are no business developers with insufficient investment – there are just those who are not kind and strategic enough.
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