When we talk about competition in business, typically we are thinking in terms of trying to achieve an advantage over our competitors – whether through the products or services we offer, customer service, or other factors that could enable us to increase market share. And whenever a circumstance presents itself that could enable us to gain a competitive advantage, we know it would be wise to grab it.
However, a friend of mine, Cliff Jones, offers a very different perspective on competition and the practice of capitalizing on a competitor’s misfortune.
In his book, Winning through Integrity, Cliff included a story about his friend, Robert Ingram, who owned two radio stations, one that specialized in classical music. Mr. Ingram had a monopoly on classical music radio programming in his city until a new competitor arrived. The competitor’s station presented similar programming, threatening to put a significant dent in the advertising sales and revenue generated by Mr. Ingram’s station.
One day severe winds blew down the transmitting tower of the rival station. Many people in Mr. Ingram’s situation might have celebrated the competitor’s misfortune. However, he chose a very different approach. Instead of waiting for his opponent to fail because he was no longer able to broadcast, Mr. Ingram sent the chief engineer of his own company to get the competitor’s station up and running again.
When someone asked why he would do such a thing, knowing that choosing not to do anything likely would have resulted in eliminating the competitor, Mr. Ingram’s reply was simple and honest: “I had what he needed to survive.”
In the Bible’s New Testament, we find this profound admonition: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right” (James 2:8). In Mr. Ingram’s case, he could have used the competitor’s problem for his own advantage. But he also realized that, had the circumstances been reversed, he would have appreciated receiving such assistance himself.
Too often in today’s demanding, high-pressure, bottom line-oriented business environment, we are willing to do anything to secure an important sale, get a signature on a contract, or somehow undermine those competing with us. The thought of offering help to them in a desperate time of need rarely occurs. But if we are committed to conducting business with integrity – and compassion – concentrating on the best interests of those we encounter during the course of a typical workday, perhaps a radical change in our thinking is necessary.
Another New Testament passage tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). This might sound difficult, because it is. We can’t be certain of the next sale, or of finalizing the next deal. But if integrity is our priority, we know what to do – even when it is difficult. Will you do the right thing, even if it is for the benefit of a competitor?
Copyright 2013, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.
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1.In your own work setting, what is your attitude toward the competition? How do you typically respond when you find yourself at a competitive advantage?
2.What is your honest reaction to Mr. Ingram’s decision to send a staff member to assist in repairing the competitor’s transmitting tower?
3.From a workplace perspective, what do you think it means to “love your neighbor as yourself”? Given the challenges of surviving in today’s global, highly competitive business environment, do you believe that should even be a consideration? Why or why not?
4.The other Bible passage cited states that in an attitude of humility we should “consider others better (or more important”) than ourselves. Do you think this is realistic – or even possible? Explain your answer.
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Matthew 6:19-24, 7:1-2; Luke 6:31; John 15:13; Philippians 4:19; 1 Peter 5:5-7; 1 John 3:16 XX