Tough Times = Rare Opportunities

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How do you treat your ailing competitor?

Despite claims to the contrary, more bumps are expected on the long and winding road to economic recovery, more bumps than a classroom of first-graders with chicken pox. The conventional wisdom says that tough times like these are an opportunity to put the final bullet in your long-suffering competitors. But business guru Tom Peters thinks otherwise.

“I believe that tough times are mostly the ultimate test of character,” he writes in his recent book, The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. “Behaving decently when the yogurt hits the fan will be long remembered after the worst has passed.”

In his characteristic counter-intuitive style, Peters advises against poaching at your competitors’ customers. “Maybe we should react with great compassion toward that competitor—not by paying his bills, but by making it clear that we have neither the intention nor the desire to rip his customers out from under him (or her). Instead of ‘think positive,’ try … ‘think thoughtful.’ Mindless optimism is just that—mindless. We must deal realistically with the crisis—and, arguably, exhibit a level of decency that knows no bounds. Such behavior is neither ‘positive’ nor ‘negative.’ It is what it is: decent. Sneaky fact is, such a display of character is probably damn good for business when the comeback occurs—people have very long memories of thoughtful behavior!”

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