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First of all, congratulations to all participants of the Rio Olympics and a special congratulations to our US athletes. What a great venue for all the world to experience. This photo of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte has gone viral with captions such as, "Winners focus on winning and losers focus on winners". Is this accurate? Does it tell the whole story? I submit not. I argue losers are those who don't care and quit. Surely at some point in this race Phelps took a "sneak peek" to see where Lochte was. Of course he did. After all, don't we all do this? Sure we do! They say it’s lonely at the top (I’d welcome that experience) and it’s only downhill from there. But what about those in second, third or even fourth and fifth place? We are of course talking about market position and not a swim meet. Is it so bad to be something other than #1? No. Don’t be misled. Being #1 means looking over your shoulder to see who is closing in and how much and can lead to complacency. Being #2 or beyond means you can look ahead (it’s easier than looking over your shoulder) and set your goals. Maybe a position other than #1 is better? Arguably, it is true and here are some reasons that separate the “leaders” from the rest of the pack:

  • Expense: Someone needs to create new products, ideas, etc. and that takes time, money and various resources. Smaller organizations may not be able to compete at that level.

  • Expertise: Being #1 requires a vast array of expertise from leadership to product development and everything in between. Not everyone is equal here, sorry.

  • Organizational size: National or international organizations are more likely to command higher market share than those who are, say, regional in scope.

  • Product depth: Those with more products can use their offering to leverage more business than those with less to offer.

You get the idea. This should not imply anyone below #1 is a “loser”. Many organizations purposely position themselves accordingly. This is a good strategy if properly managed. I’ve been in organizations at both ends of the spectrum and I admit being among the top 5 in a served market is a lot of fun as long as you continue to strive to improve your position. Those organizations that have not paid attention to their competitors (you know who they are), where are they today? Been there too - NOT fun. Back to Phelps Vs. Lochte. While in sports, #2 makes #1 better and #1 makes #2 better IF they (and others) chose to be competitive and vie for top honors, so too does this hold true in business. What position are you in and is it acceptable? You need to know the answer to this two-part question before you go any further.

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