That time I almost won The Amazing Race

It was one of the greatest heartaches of my life. There I stood with the finish line and the million-dollar prize just a few short steps away. Even Phil wanted me to win. Of this I was certain.

But I couldn’t continue. I was forced to drop out due to a blown knee. I had let myself down, I had let my wife down, and I had let down my millions of adoring fans. To say I was crushed would be a gross understatement.

Back in the real world, things were less devastating. I sat fused to my favorite recliner in a catatonic delirium brought on by just the right mix of fever and narcotic pain meds, watching a DVR’d episode of a popular reality TV show. Later I learned that my wife was quite amused as I rambled on about our Amazing Loss.

When you manufacture your own reality in a setting like this, the consequences are minimal. Your wife will probably laugh at you. Readers of your blog might think you’ve lost your marbles. But that’s about it.

However, when you manufacture your own reality in business, the results can be disastrous.

Every organization I’ve ever worked with has bragged about all the reasons they’re better than their competitors. However, until pushed, very few have been willing to share the areas where they’re not better than their competitors. Sadly, this taboo area of discussion is also one of the most important, because these are precisely the points where your competitors will attack you. If you’re not ready for the attack, you'll lose big.

Maybe your institution competes against big regional or national banks. Sure, you're local. You're friendly. You don't commit fraud by opening unauthorized accounts and you don't invest in DAPL.

But if consumers truly believed those were the most important qualities for a financial institution to possess, why do the big guys continue to pick up market share?

Hiding from your competitive vulnerabilities is like believing the best way to cure an illness is to ignore it. It may feel good for a little while, but trust me, you’ll live to regret it.

Instead, look at what the big banks do better than you. How convenient is your mobile app? How easy it is for small businesses to make a mobile deposit or fund a loan? Do you offer instant issue cards?

If your competitor is better than you, what should you do about it? The first and best option is, of course, to fix the problem. For example, if your competitor has a better service reputation than you, developing and executing a comprehensive program to significantly boost your service reputation is entirely doable. I did exactly that when I was at Symitar the second time.

But truth be told, you can’t win every battle. Sometimes you’ll come in second. The important thing is, you can’t ignore that when it happens. You need to market around your shortcomings, whatever they may be. Focus on the areas where you’re better and be prepared to talk about why the areas where you’re better are more important than the areas where you’re not. It all comes down to embracing reality.

It only took me a few minutes and a precautionary trip to the ER to get over my Amazing Race loss. However, were I to lose in this amazing race we call business because I refused to remove my rose-colored glasses, I suspect the recovery wouldn’t be nearly as fast, if it came at all.

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