Why You Don’t Need to Be Afraid of Competition

woodpeckers competition

This is a tale of Three Woodpeckers.

(Yes, I realize there are only two in the photo. Details, details. Keep reading.)

This morning I sat in my yard, watching the sunrise and listening to the birds sing their morning songs. The breeze was light, and the air was cool – not too cold, but comfortable. The birds sang all around me.

As I watched and listened to the activity around me, a woodpecker caught my attention. His pecking was loud and strong. I listened for a minute, then watched him fly across the yard to another tree. He was a large, majestic bird – black and white with a red crown, and quite impressive. He commanded attention. He settled in and started loudly pecking on his new tree. This bird makes massive holes in the trees, some as large as a softball. He makes an obvious impact on the world around him.

Then I heard a different tapping sound. This one was louder, but not nearly as loud as our majestic friend. It sounded dull. For a second I caught a glimpse of this bird, perched upside down on a tree that clearly was not producing any food for him – this tree sounded solid, without that hollow sound that the other birds’ trees had. Still, this bird kept on pecking, and finally gave up and flew away.

Then something caught my eye.

An even smaller woodpecker on a nearby tree. This bird was also black and white with a touch of red, but very small. His pecking was quiet – thoughtful and deliberate. I listened closely. He sat perched on his tree and every now and then would peck quietly – tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…while his larger (and much louder) counterpart could be heard a few trees over – TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP. This little bird wasn’t rushed, and he wasn’t the least bit intimidated. He kept going – tap…tap-tap…tap-tap-tap-tap, as if he was carefully inspecting his tree before poking in for the tiniest of morsels for his breakfast.

It’s amazing what catches your attention when you listen.

At that moment, I was witnessing one of the many miracles of nature – three very different creatures, all with the same goal, all searching for the same thing. Yet they all had a completely different approach, and they were all eventually going to get what they wanted. They weren’t interacting with each other, because they weren’t in direct competition with each other. Their objectives were the same, but their targets were different.

But how does this relate to business?

Think about it. What is your approach to sales & marketing? What’s your presence in your market? Are you the large, majestic woodpecker, using your big lists and a “look at me” approach to get people to buy from you? Or are you the second woodpecker, pecking blindly at your tree without first making sure it’s the right match for your business? Or are you the small, quiet woodpecker, using a more deliberate, targeted strategy to get customers?

The point is, we all do things differently, and that’s ok.

I’m definitely not the first woodpecker. I’m not loud, I don’t have a big audience (yet), and it’s not in my nature to call attention to myself. Sometimes I’m the second woodpecker – jumping in before I do my homework. That’s a mistake, and I’m not going to get the results I want. My goal is to be the third woodpecker – he works smarter, not harder. And he still gets everything he needs.

Which woodpecker are you? Let’s discuss this in the comments.

  • Cool! The first one is a Pileated Woodpecker. Yes, very impressive. The third one is a Downy Woodpecker, or maybe a Hairy, they are slightly larger than the Downy.

    Very good analogy. The slower more deliberate tapping way of reaching a goal seems a good path in business.

    • Yes! A Pileated Woodpecker – he sure is fun to watch. Thanks for identifying my feathered friends. 🙂

  • We used to have a woodpecker come around that would peck incredibly loudly at the *metal* eaves of our carport now and then. There’s surely a business metaphor there about knocking yourself brainless in the totally wrong market!

    Great story, wonderful post. I look forward to reading more from you here!
    –Sandy

  • Hello Lisa. Lovely post. Makes me want to stop typing and go outside..now!
    Did you know that woodpeckers and their close relatives also create beautiful ‘birch bark art’ as they tap away? What a great combination..they combine work and art at the same time. I’m taking note.

  • Too often, I’ve been the Second Bird, but now I & we (my husband & I) are working very hard on being the Third Bird. And I notice by the ease with which things are now coming together that I believe we are succeeding. 🙂

    Great post & a great beginning! 🙂

    • @Birdy – That’s so awesome. “Things are coming together” – that sounds so nice. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

      @Dawn – I had no idea! How cool is that… I think I have a few small birches – going to check them out

      @Sandy – Oh, that would not be a nice sound. When I lived in the city I vaguely remember that on a few early summer mornings. Don’t miss that, for sure! Glad you like the post. I promise you’ll see more soon 🙂

  • I’m curious…I had a downy woodpecker land on my finger the other day. I was puting out bird suet and put my hand out. Not really expecting one of them to accept my invitation to perch on it…but hoping. I slowly brought my hand to the suet cage for the little guy to dine on. And he stayed there long enough for my arm to get tired. Is that normal behavior for them?

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