One of the things I learned very early in life is that “Competition is Good” The better the competition, the better I performed. This was and is true in all walks of life.  Athletic endeavors, Scholastic challenges, and even the schoolyard bully were all critical to making me the man I am today. Who would have thought that I would have been thanking the neighborhood bully for helping in my formative years but here I am.  Confronting competition was not always a guarantee of positive results but it certainly improved the odds. In the case of the bully, this undersized 8-year-old turned and confronted him and he backed down. I was largely able to do this due to some overconfidence after “learning how to fight” from my older brother.  The point is, I prepared as best as I could, (Mr. Miyagi was busy that week) and confronted the competition.

Taking those lessons into the present, I look at the competition in our industry and think, how can I prepare to face the challenge? In some ways, it is like Duane (The Rock) Johnson’s new series, The Titan Games. Man against Man, Woman against woman, Business against business. For today’s match, I choose Amazon. Why not confront “The Bully” head-on. (No offense Jeff, the whole Bully thing is for illustrative purposes). They truly are the 800 lb. Gorilla. I know, for most of you, Amazon Go Stores are not in your neighborhood… YET! They have the audacity to rethink how we serve our customers and do it better than we do. WTH? I love the idea of Frictionless Retail. Walk in, get what you want, walk out. Drive in, get what you want, drive out. Text in, get what you want delivered, enjoy. If you really look at it from a macro perspective, it just isn’t that hard. Of course, then you have to look at how do I get from where I am today to where I need to be tomorrow to meet the competitive challenge.

I wish I had a Silver Bullet or a magic wand for you on how to beat the competition, but I don’t. It is really a matter of 1) studying the competition, 2) understanding the key components that make them great, 3) preparing yourself and your team to meet the challenge and 4) to quote Phil Knight, “Just Do It”.

1) Have you been to the Amazon Go Store? Sheetz, WaWa, Rutter’s, QT, KT and the other leaders in our industry? I would strongly recommend a road trip. Pictures don’t do any of them justice and you certainly don’t want to trust the opinions of “Fake News”. 2) Have you taken the time to really Analyze what makes them unique and more importantly, how they differ from you and your stores? 3) Have you developed a written plan on how you are going to meet and beat the bully with key action steps and timelines? 4) Have you empowered your team to “Just Do It” or are they waiting for their leader to tell them what to do?

I can guarantee you that Jeff Bezos and all the other neighborhood bullies out there are not waiting for you to catch up so what are you waiting for.

I am fond of saying that I like to hire people that are younger, smarter and better looking than me to guide my company and I live by those words. Younger so they have the energy and the education to meet the challenge, smarter because frankly, the bar is set pretty low, and Better looking because the bar is set really low. The point is, we need to surround ourselves with a strong, opinionated team with all the tools to take us into battle. We have to be able to assess our strengths and weaknesses and fill in the gaps with quality outside consultants. And finally, we have to give our team the ammunition and the power to carry out our directives.

We can see who the bully is. With some analytical study, we can see what makes them different. With the right people around us, we can meet the challenge and create our own unique success.