Sunday, March 24, 2013

Competition: Keep It Humble!

I've been asked several times about competition: "There's a slew of people doing what you're doing, how do you distinguish your business from the rest?" "How are you going to compete with those in your field?"  I always hesitate at first to answer these questions, not because I am stumped, but because of the idea of competition.  Knowing and beating your competitors is a key concept in all business models.  You have to outsmart them--have a better product or service, a more seamless operation, more customers, more resources, more profits, etc.--all so your business can boast that you're the best, or better, than the other.  And it's considered the only way to measure success.

A common comparison to the business world in regards to competition is sports, and being that we're  midway through March Madness, let's talk basketball.  In the NCAA tournament, there are scores of teams competing for the championship.  And even though these teams are considered the best in the nation, we still have top and bottom teams, favorites and underdogs, the widely known and unknown, perennial squads and first-timers.  These elements make it interesting for millions of fans and viewers as they fill their brackets and bet on their preferred college team.  The tournament is the driving force behind not only ticket sales but also student enrollment and funding for the schools.  Apparently, there's a lot at stake, especially for reputable teams who are "supposed to win it all".  For example, I think Indiana will be the champs, especially after watching them best Michigan by one point at the last second of the Big 10 championship game. They've been #1 almost the entire season, but what if they don't win?  Their season would be considered a disaster, and their "failure" fodder for sports critics. However, with the tourney's lose-one-and-you're-out design, it creates opportunities for big-time upsets and emerging "Cinderella stories."  So let's say if you're a championship-caliber team like Indiana or Duke, and although you've played your heart out, you're ousted.  Should you really feel like a failure--even though you've won the majority of your games and previous championships and is a nationally respected ball club--all because this year you didn't get to hoist the trophy?

They shouldn't feel disappointed.   Being a basketball player myself, I used to have that mentality that you play to win, and if you lose, that makes you inferior, irrelevant, a disgrace.  That was then.  I don't view the game that way anymore. Now I have a totally new perspective.  Yes, you compete, stand out, give it your all and strive to win, but if you don't come out on top, no matter what the stakes are, be proud of your accomplishment, that you played a good game, congratulate the other, and furthermore, don't consider yourself defeated, because in all reality, you're not.

WHAT?  Yes, I meant what I said.  Hold your head up high, you're not a loser!  In that basketball game, your body is in absolute, incredible condition, more-so than the millions of people watching you!  You're representing a great school, matter-of-fact you're obtaining a quality education...probably for free! So why feel dejected?

Okay, so back to business, so how does Lengua Lounge compete?  Lengua Lounge competes in the sense of standing out, bringing fresh ideas to the table, and being highly sensitive to our clients' needs.  This is our primary focus, shifting away from the aggressive attitude of beating competitors or diminishing their reputation.  Lengua Lounge believes that through the sharing of information and ideas with other translators, academic institutions and tutors alike, and by creating a sense of community among language professionals, we're all working together to improve standards in the language industry and garner respect from those outside of our field.  Lengua Lounge prefers to network and collaborate with other translators, is more inclined to laud the more experienced translators and long-standing firms, and is open to pedagogical methodologies that differ from ours. Rather than poke fun or scrutinize the follies of other freelancers, we opt for the proactive approach, imparting knowledge of the language industry and paving the way for those who have little or no experience.

So, we see it as a level playing field.  At the end of the day, we're all in this industry to use our talents and abilities for the sake of a greater good.

In basketball, competition could be so fierce that you almost forget to have fun. (I mean really, all you're doing is trying to put a ball through a hoop!)

And just as with hoops, Lengua Lounge plays the "game". However, we focus less on having a competitive advantage over the next guy to win it all and more on enjoying the fruits of our labor: overcoming translation challenges, teaming with great colleagues, making it fun and exciting for students to learn Spanish, and exceeding the expectations of our clients.  It's as simple as that.


  1. This is what I meant. And I'm not a prophet, lol:

  2. Hi Samuel

    I love your style of writing and your take on the business world.
    Many people would say that by not trying to corner the market in your field you are not doing your best, but having been the General manager of the "Best Club" in town I know how exhausting it can be and can tell you there is no joy in closing down your competition. The owner I worked for was obsessed with having all the customers in town. In the end that only worked out badly as instead of getting the best customers we mostly became the hang out for riff raff. His obsession with undercutting the competition became the almost downfall of the business. It is much better to collaborate than to destroy. Many people could learn a great lesson from this post.

    As a fellow MOOCer I look forward to hearing more from you.
    Good luck with all your business ventures.


  3. Thank you Fleur for the feedback and well-wishing. Although its natural for us to have a competitive nature and want to be the best, it becomes a problem when it, just as you say, becomes an obsession to the extent that nothing else matters: employees, customers, the community, environment, quality of your own product/service...and you sacrifice your own integrity for power.

    I'm glad there's someone out there that agrees with me, and being that we see eye-to-eye on this subject, I'm sure we'll be in contact during this MOOC course.