Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Competition Is Only An Illusion

It's important that we as stained glass artists realize that we are not in competition with each other. There is a tendency to see someone else’s success and feel jealous. “I should have gotten that commission, I could have done better.” We see artists in all mediums belittling their colleagues work. What’s wrong with us? Are we working from an attitude of scarcity or abundance? Those who have a view of life that there exists abundance become much more open and able to feel joy for the success of others. They are able to be inspired by the work of others instead of feeling jealous.

When I started in stained glass in 1983, I wasn't making enough to support us by only doing glass. Somehow, I stumbled onto video rentals and soon I had three video rental stores in three different towns. What's interesting is that in one town, another person opened a video rental store right behind ours on the same block. We thought we were really going to be in fierce competition.

The other store lasted a year and then the owner relocated to another town. During that year, the store located in the town with the “competitor” did about $1200 in rentals each week, so did the store in a nearby town that had no competition. After the other store closed down, our revenues went up for a week or so, but leveled back to about $1200 a week. If that other guy was so much competition, shouldn’t the stores’ revenues have doubled when he closed? Hmmm.

Later, three other video stores opened in the town where there was no competition. Guess what? There was very little change in that stores receipts. There was a slight dip in the stores revenues, but not anywhere near enough to hurt us. Huh, that just didn’t seem right.

A couple of years ago, a major stained glass studio in Salt Lake City, Utah closed their doors. We sell stained glass in Salt Lake through a couple of decorators and are located about 50 miles south of there. If it were true that we were in competition with each other, my business would have gone up. But it didn’t, what another store does has very little effect on us. Except that if someone starts a heavy advertising campaign, interest in stained glass goes up and it’s almost as if their campaign was one of our own. So having people around in the same business only SEEMS like you’re in competition. Their marketing efforts help me!

Recently, our studio worked with two other “competitors” on a project. We were contacted to build some large windows to go in doors in an office building. They would have to be insulated between tempered glass and rather than use the local big glass guys who routinely make mistakes and even damage windows, we approached our nearest competitors, a stained glass shop who have been in business for many years. They turned out to be very friendly and helpful and even though the price for their work was 50% higher than that other glass shop, the value was there because they treated our work as if it was their own.

When I asked if they could install the glass, they were too busy, but they recommended another glass company who specializes in installations. The install went so well, that we’ve asked for other help from that third company.

So instead of being “competitors”, by using each others talents and strengths, it’s almost like we’re partners. The glass shop that did the insulated units doesn’t teach classes, so they give out our business cards to people who ask about classes and they send folks to us when they don’t have a specific piece of glass in stock.

Your natural instinct may be that if my students go buy tools from a different glass studio, I’m losing money, but don’t forget that the folks at the other studio are coming to you and making purchases. It’s a win-win situation. You and your neighbor studio sell more to each others students because they visit and everything in your studio looks new, because they haven’t been there before. The students win, because they get to see the same things in a different setting and it breathes new life into their hobby.

What if they start building windows for their friends and become competitors? Then treat them like partners, like long lost friends. Their circle of influence is completely different than yours and so it doesn’t matter if they are selling to others, they were never going to be your customers anyhow. And besides that, the more people who learn about stained glass in your area, the more popular it will become. And the more educated the community is about glass, the more valued it will become.

Have you ever wondered why all the car lots seem to cluster together? They all seen to locate on a single road, rows of them. Because they know that there is power in numbers. That they aren’t really in competition with one another. By locating closely to each other, they create a synergy where the two separate lots might have sold a number of cars by themselves, but by being near each other, they’ll each sell more than they would have.

Get over the jealousy and you can really enjoy your business. The other store owners will become your best friends instead of your enemies. Sounds good? Try it.

For more articles on stained glass visit http://www.gommstudios.com/stained-glass-articles/articles.htm

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