Competition- Know Your Enemy?

  • By John Chudleigh
  • 01 Aug, 2013

By knowing your competitors, you know yourselves better too

Everyone loves a good Latin maxim don’t they? I detect a faint grumbling; memories of the drudgery of rote learning ‘amo, amas, amat’ and all that. Okay, maybe not everyone. There may have previously been an over dependence on ancient precedent, but has the pendulum swung too far? I say yes, and in this continuing blog series about the relentlessly exciting world of EU tender sales, I look to another world, that of the past, for inspiration and information in your quest to win Euro business. Like rugby, going backwards is a good way to go forward.

The above quote from Ovid’s Metamorphoses is perhaps made memorable by its contradiction with the Roman spirit. As such great martial innovators, the Romans relied first and foremost on their own military ideas, and admitting the prowess of a foe was often denied by strict honour. While in business today thinking about one’s competition is more natural, assessing your competition thoroughly is an area in which many businesses could improve. When competing for EU tenders, the strengths and weaknesses of the competition can be all important.

Fas est ab hoste doceri – It is right to learn, even from the enemy.

A slightly altered translation gets closer, for me, to the imperative, exhaustive nature of the maxim; even when we think we might know everything there is to know, there is still more reward in knowing the competition.
The Romans owe one of their most defining victories to accurately assessing their competition. The First Punic War (264-241BC) was won by usurping Carthaginian naval hegemony, the Romans having captured a Carthaginian vessel and imitated its superior design. Their genius was to add another innovation, a ramming and boarding device (corvus) which fixed a Roman ship to a Carthaginian one, effectively allowing them to board and turn the naval battle (Carthaginian strength) into a land battle (Roman strength). So the war was won and Roman world domination set in motion.
I know your ambitions are more modest; nevertheless, like the Romans, you can strive to know your competition as thoroughly as possible, and win that business, with the help of these few trusty clues.

• Do they have incumbent advantage? Only one in five bidders manages to unseat an incumbent. Is your competition over reliant on incumbent advantage? Complacency is a fault easily highlighted. What can you do to make the buyer confident of a seamless transition?

• Geography. Knowing the locale, language and customs of your potential client can be a key advantage. How far can this be said about your competitors? Do you need local representation?

• Client Competence. How well is your competitors’ product suited to the client? Can they utilise it properly? Again, will language and cultural differences strengthen or weaken your competitive edge?

• Pricing. How much does the competing product cost? Lowering your price often seems like an obvious way to beat a rival, but be careful- demonstrate a record in delivering value for money, not lowering cost, that will motivate a buyer.

• Time Frame. How quickly can your competitors deliver results? For how long have your competitors offered their product or service?

These are some of the avenues by which you can assess the enemy, and come up with that all important competitive advantage. Of course, by knowing your competitors, you know yourselves better too. Next week we take a look at another aspect of your product’s qualification for market, uniqueness. What do you have that they don’t? Our corvi, if you will…

Bona Fortuna!

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 To address this, the Centre of European Law King’s College London is hosting a series of evening seminars @ £20 each, examining these issues and the likely options resulting from the outcome of whatever legal settlement is negotiated between the UK the EU at some unspecified point in the future. These will include The Swiss Model*, WTO, State Aid and Public Procurement amongst others, over the next six months.

 To quote the Centre for European Law ‘an outstanding array’ of King’s College’ expertise will conduct these seminars over this academic year ‘covering twelve different areas of law on which Brexit is likely to have an impact’.

 The full details of these and registration links are available at:

 Topics already covered by recent open lectures were ‘Opening Transatlantic Markets’ and ‘After Brexit: is the EEA an option for the UK?’ Details of some conference materials are available to download at:

 Whether a legal professional or not, if you are interested in gaining a better insight on the implications these huge legal and constitutional changes will have on you and your company, inside or outside the single market, these seminars are to be recommended.

 *Already presented.

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Read the full article by Antony Savvas at:

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