Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Success in business does not take a killer instinct
Published on December 22, 2003 By Draginol In Business

Some people pride themselves on being ruthless in business. Wanting to take out the competition.  For me, I just can't live life that way. Life is short and thinking of everything as "us" versus "them" strikes me as incredibly unhealthy over the long term.

Many people who just frequent WinCustomize.com looking for skins, themes, wallpapers, etc. would be surprised to learn that the world's most popular skin/theme site is the main site for downloading content for the site's owners. Stardock owns WinCustomize.com. And yet it is the main place to download skins and themes for Litestep, SysMetrix, NeXTStart, ICQ Plus all three of which "compete" with software Stardock makes.  Let me be clear: WinCustomize is the primary site for users of these 4 programs get their content. It is also the most popular site for downloading Microsoft's Windows Media Player skins as well and contains sections for other programs. 

That's because you don't have to look at everything as "us" vs. "them".  Instead, I like to think of them as kindred spirits.  I much prefer a "win-win" situation than a "win-lose" situation. Back when Konfabulator 1.0 came out on the Mac, I did a series of articles for WinCustomize Magazine on it. Why? It "competes" with DesktopX. No, we don't see it that way. We see Arlo Rose as a kindred spirit. Someone who loves doing the same kind of stuff we do. If we met at a trade show, for instance, I bet we'd get along great.

The same is true of websites. One of my best on-line friends runs the world's most popular art site - deviantART.com. But oh no, it has skins and themes. So does Skinbase.org, so does Customize.org, so does Neowin.net.  Are they "competitors"? If you suscribe to the "only the paranoid will survive" mantra then sure.  But not to me.  To me, these are all friends who share a common vision. We're people who want to do cool stuff on our computers.  Heck, I'm a moderator on Neowin. I've posted news on there for not just our stuff but for our "competitor's" software as well.

Now, I don't want to give the wrong impression here. I'm not all warm and cuddly. If someone goes out of their way to antagonize me I can be pretty ruthless. I certainly have my share of detractors out there who think I'm the devil. They rarely are able to articulate a specific reason that a reasonable person could understand but when put to it, I will do what I must.  Or more to the point, if someone else is going to go after me with that "killer instinct" that people sometimes think they're supposed to do with competitors I can react in kind.  There are software programs we don't support on WinCustomize that we would definitely have supported if the authors of them hadn't taken it upon themselves to see us as "the enemy" right from the start. To them I say - it's not necessary to be that way. We're not selling tires here. We're not selling commodities.

One company that has tried to antagonize us from its very beginnings is currently suing us amazingly enough. Which I find astounding because their lawsuit basically boils down to them wanting the court to force us to let them use our IconPackager theme format in order to compete with us.  Besides being a very bad PR move for them, it's bad business.  If I had been in their shoes, rather than spending money on lawyers to try to force my "competitor" to let me use his stuff, I would have spent that same money hiring icon authors to make exclusive icon packages for my own theme format.  I would have hence gotten my program off with a great start, helped the community and made my "competitor" hustle to keep his software getting better.  That would have been my instinct anyway. The strategy I would have employed is arguably a lot less ruthless but which one is likely to generate more money and good will?

What it all boils down to is that life is short. You can either go through it jumping from one stressful event to another. Or you can enjoy it. I'm a people person (obviously - I opened my blog site to the whole world to share in for free <g>).  At Stardock I can honestly say that internally, we stress the importance to take the high road. To wear the white hat. Our company culture could be best described as "The Federation" (from Star Trek).  Interview any current or former Stardock employee and I suspect they would concur with that characterization.

I think in the long run, people are happier when they approach businesses as kindred spirits rather than as "competitors". Obviously that strategy doesn't work so well in commodity markets which is why we stay away from that.  We make games and desktop enhancements.  When we go to E3 or other trade shows you can bet that the game developers see each other as kindred spirits and not competitors in general. When at a party hanging out with friends from Bioware, Ensemble, Blizzard, etc. we're all on the same team. The same can be said of desktop enhancements in general.

So if you're ever thinking of getting into business, don't feel you have to have a "killer instinct". In my experience, the most successful business people both financially and in happiness with life, are the ones who approach business relationships from a win-win situation rather than a win-lose situation.  Kindred spirits, not competitors.


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