If you ever had a hobby that made you push a new frontier, you will surely be able to identify with this guest blog on “The Theory of Competitive Reality”. In this post Mark Aboud, Global Head of Inside Sales for SAP, discusses how one significant epiphany changed his perspective on setting goals and positively contributed to his long term success, whether it was in his personal or professional life. This thought provoking piece motivates us to look further and broader when setting goals and formulating strategies. In turn not only will you push past your personal best but you may push past the rest as well.
The Theory of Competitive Relativity
by Mark Aboud
After many years competing both in the software business and recreational sports, I get an epiphany from time to time that completely changes my perspective on just how well all my plans and hard work are really preparing me to compete to win. In sports I have been actively racing in swimming, running and triathlons for many years. Swimming is my main sports passion, so when deciding on which Triathlon to enter, I naturally select races that have a longer or tougher swim segment. Such as the case in The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon which has the toughest swim segment of any triathlon I know. As the name implies, the race starts with a 2km swim across the bay from Alcatraz Island to Marina Green on the mainland. The water is ice cold (49-50 degrees F) with an irregular chop and a strong current pulling you past the swim exit and out towards the ocean where a large population of great white sharks patrol the coast for an easy meal. The swim is followed by a 30km bike and 12km run, up and down the crazy steep hills of San Francisco. Every year I did the race (except for my injury prone final year) I trained harder, used better equipment and was more determined than ever to crack the top 10 in my age group. And indeed, every year I got faster. Clearly my plan was working. Well, maybe my plan was working, but unfortunately it was not paying off because every year I was actually dropping down in the standings. Why? Well, here is where the epiphany comes in: I was achieving my goal of getting better every race, however, my competition was getting better ‘faster’ than I was, therefore relative to my competition I was actually falling behind!
The Theory of Competitive Relativity really means that in order to win consistently, you need to be getting better, faster, than your competition. This may seem obvious but without the luxury of hindsight it is not at all obvious until it is too late and the competition steam rolls right over you (as I unhappily learned at Alcatraz). However, unless you are a professional athlete, sport is a great place to learn important lessons while only damaging your pride.
When it comes to the world of business, the stakes are much higher. The outcome will impact your employability, career prospects and long term business outlook. Creating and executing brilliant business strategies are important to win, but taking your eye off the competition can leave you out of the winners circle. Some years ago, I assumed responsibility for a 300 hundred person sales team in Canada. As I talked to people in various functions and levels of the team it was clear we had a lot of passion around some very well thought out and compelling strategies. Everyone was convinced that these strategies would ensure the team’s overall success. When I asked how we stacked up against the competition, we had many people offer impressions and anecdotal opinions or simply silence. When we rolled up our sleeves and did some real analysis as to how we really compared to the competition we were startled to realize how far behind we were in some areas. We immediately reshaped our plan not only to achieve our objectives, but to also get better than our competition. Fortunately for us, our competition did not understand the Theory of Competitive Relatively, so we caught them napping and not only achieved our goals but positioned ourselves for a long term winning streak.
Of course everyone likes to win. And many will create a solid plan to win. But only those who are truly passionate about winning will create a strategy using the Theory of Competitive Relatively to win decisively and for the long haul.