According to Miriam Webster, the “full” definition of “competition” is: “The effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms.” Interestingly enough, there is no mention of quality or quality control. I made no secret of the fact that one of the drivers in my business model was to eliminate the inefficiencies and dangers in the large door sector, many of which have been personified and sadly demonstrated by fatalities recently.
Competition makes entrepreneurs think more innovatively which is necessary for the growth of any business, and any industry. My “competition” was primarily the bifold door. The bifold door filled a need when it was first introduced to the market decades ago. It was the only game in town and seemed the logical choice for anyone looking for a door for their commercial building, agricultural facility or aircraft hangar. There weren’t many other options available, until Hydroswing® came to the marketplace and rocked the boat. Technology vastly improved, safety is a concern, and the bifold didn’t (and doesn’t) make sense. Wires, pulleys and straps won’t survive in a hydraulic world.
My small shop in Cottonwood, MN hit a nerve. We started to watch the bifold manufacturing competition scramble. Via the anticipated demise of this outdated and now condemned (in the UK and EU) bifold “contraption,” Hydroswing® became a major player… quickly. As a large door product, the Hydroswing® gained many hundreds (if not thousands of orders) by being the first to market with a safe, strong, secure, single-panel hydraulic door system. Our two main competitors resorted to some unethical practices that ranged from false internet slanders, to sending in “undercover” customers to purchase our doors.
An important lesson was learned. When you create a high quality product and when you start to change an industry: watch out. The “copyists” will be hot on your tail. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we must have been doing something really right! To keep up with Hydroswing®, the bifold competition began to slash pricing as the market commoditized.
More lessons were to come… and they were fast and furious. What I learned as an open minded entrepreneur, is that when you set about changing something that has been set without challenge for many years (30 or so), you better be ready to see everything the word “competition” means. In our case, unfortunately, it was an all-out war. This kind of battle rarely results in a clear winner and brought the worst out in several players who were still trying to play catch up. I also learned that competition can and will resort to any means to survive. So, for all you budding entrepreneurs that think you got it nailed, a word of wisdom: keep an eye over your shoulder. As most successful business owners will tell you, getting there is one thing, but be ready to innovate and execute continually, be ready to be agile in your approach, and be ready for the firestorm when competition goes “sour and nasty” — and it some point it usually will.
What we did at Hydroswing® was simple. We evolved to the next stage, we proved our product, and had them all reeling. The evolutionary process can indeed be painful, as I will write about in forthcoming blogs.
NOTE: Since I started on this journey at least 3 people have been fatally injured by the bifold door and several others maimed. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have banned, condemned and categorically enforced removal of all bifold in the UK, closely followed by the European Commission on Machine Safety.