February 5, 2019

What You Can Learn From Your Competitors

By Paul Bieber

I doubt there is any one reading this column who hasn’t said, “Gee, My darned competitor beat me on getting this job. How does he do it and still be in business?” Some competitors who low-ball a bid do go out of business, but it is the one’s that stay in business who can be you best teacher.

What do they do that you don’t?  How do they do it?  You have to learn someone else’s tricks to move forward. Let’s find out how.

Continually drive to the jobsite and see what is going on. Pull in the parking lot and watch. Look at the suppliers dropping off goods to your competitor. Do you use these vendors? Do they offer better prices?  It costs you nothing to speak with these vendors.  Call their sales rep in for a discussion on products and pricing.

Place an ad in your local paper for experienced glaziers, or place it online with Indeed.  Look at the resumes and bring in the people that work for the direct competitors that you most admire.  Do a full interview discussing the applicant as well as the work environment they have.  Ask what makes their company special, along with why they want to leave.  Just ask simple questions like, “Tell me about the benefits you receive currently,” or “What is the work environment at your current job?”  I think you’ll find that salary is not the main motivator at the best competitors.

Go to your local glass organization meetings and speak with your competitors about a specific issue and how they would handle it.  You can’t ask pricing, but you can discuss jobsite logistics.  Ask someone what their turnover rate among glaziers is.  If it is better than yours, listen well.  If it worse than yours, give a few small hints and then move on.  The more you go to the local association meetings, the more you will be trusted.  You will learn from the speakers as well as your competitors.

You just lost a bid for a job that you thought you were perfect for.  Wait a couple of weeks and go back to the potential client and ask why you were not awarded the contract.  They usually won’t tell you what someone else bid, but they most often will tell you ideas that you can improve on to look better on your own bids.  Why would they do this?  More often than not, they want two good companies bidding against each other, which will give them a lower cost and still have quality work.

So, always keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.  You will learn and help your company.