Now when I say the word competition to you, I don’t mean we are running one (although that is something I might think about for later in year; if I can find time to think of anything other than how to get all the orders completed before the end of the day) but between rival businesses –whether that be florists, gift shops, newsagents or supermarkets. There is, always has been and always will be competition between businesses that sell or provide the same product, but this really doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact (to me) it’s a very good thing, which is why a lovely customer who came in this morning shocked me with her reaction when I didn’t have the flower she specifically wanted (or anything that would have been a viable substitute). Because I wasn’t able to fulfil her order I suggested she try the shop over the road in case they had what she was looking for. She was genuinely horrified that I would be willing to send a customer to my competition; thankfully after explaining it to her she was able to understand why I would. My reason for doing this (it’s not the first time) is because at the end of the day it’s not all about me or the shop; it’s about the customer. More importantly it’s about the customer leaving the shop feeling they have been treated well – have been served in a courteous and friendly manner, and that they have been able to achieve what they set out to do when they left home. If I can’t provide the product the customer wants, then I will suggest somewhere they may be able to get it (the service side of things are always paramount to me, so I hope that nobody ever leaves feeling they’ve not been served correctly – if they do I have failed).
I know there are lots of business owners that would never dream of doing such a thing; I’ve worked for/with some people that wouldn’t even offer to send a customer to a rival in another town, let alone one within just a few paces, but this to me is so silly. There is plenty of room for us all. In fact I know one of the other shops over the road has been approached by a florist in another part of our area who wants to supply them with bunches and ready-made tied bouquets; this is to get her florist business more promotion, but would also give the other business a new product to offer. The shop owner told me he is really tempted by the offer but doesn’t want to do it in case he offends/upsets me. I told him not to be so daft; at the end of the day business is business, and if he can make some money without any cost to himself, then he is a fool not to go for it. I certainly wouldn’t be offended by him doing so. Competition keeps us on our toes and just because we’re business rivals, doesn’t mean we can’t help each other out and be happy for each other.
When the new girls took over the other florists back in October I made a point of going over to introduce myself (as I had done with the previous owners). I remember how hard it was in the beginning for me when we first opened. I had 18 years’ experience at the time, and was starting from scratch so I only had to build a reputation. They were newly qualified, and taking on a business that had been running for 9 years; they have to keep up the reputation that someone else has built through their hard work, time and effort. I can only imagine the pressure they must have been under, which is why as soon as I got back from my holiday (I was away when they took over) I went over to say hello. I also told them I’d heard good things about them (everyone needs to feel they’re doing things right – yes our friends can post on social media sites about us and praise what we are doing, although I’d like to think businesses don’t use their friends to do such a thing; I ask my friends not to do this, as I want our reputation to be down to every day customers, and not friends and family who would say anything they thought I wanted to hear, however much they thought they might be helping to boost things). I wished them all the luck and told them if they ever ran out of something to give me a shout – I am more than willing to help out someone else (I have several other shops in the area I call on if I run out of something and get desperate, and vice versa). My customer this morning also thought that was mad of me until I explained why to her.
To me, anyone that fears competition is either not confident in their own abilities (at which point they are obviously in the wrong business) or they will go round dissing the people they are competing against (that one really gets me. I don’t understand what anyone thinks they will gain by dissing and saying bad things about another owner which makes them look not only petty, but shows exceptionally bad customer service skills). You are only negative towards those that you perceive a threat.