I have this rule about competition: never talk bad about your competition. At least in front of customers or in public. Pumping yourself up amongst your co-workers at the expense of your competition, that’s fine and kind of fun, honestly.
It’s an interesting thing, competition. Personally, I’m a fan of it. It’s motivating, for one, lighting the proverbial fire under your posterior. Two, competition makes you better — truly it does. It forces you to evaluate your methods and approach, makes you work harder — smarter.
Trashing your competition in front of customers has never been satisfying for me — but beating them on the playing field because the plan, the approach, the quality of the job were all better, well. That’s just gravy. Delicious, delicious gravy.
I might be a romantic when it comes to that, however. Feel free to disagree.
Competition can also force you into places you didn’t want to go, places you didn’t know you were even capable of going to — your limits are pushed and you come out better for the experience.
I had the opportunity to talk competition, and other things, with outgoing head of Daimler Trucks, Andreas Renschler, who is moving over to the company’s Mercedes-Benz division, and Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, at the Mid-America Trucking Show.
Here is a brief snippet of my conversation with both men:
Jason Rhyno:There have been many changes in the trucking industry over the last few years. I’m curious, which ones were unexpected?
Andreas Renschler: Basically it was here, in North America. We had an interesting discussion about engine technologies — SCR versus EGR. This was more of an argument, actually — you can always have arguments about engine technologies. But it was approached from a totally different circumstance from someone called Navistar. We were a little bit surprised at the company thinking they had something better—I’m fine with that, competition is good—but to make the other look bad, that was unexpected and we had to fight back. This kind of way to argue, to fight, was unexpected.
Jason Rhyno: Volkswagon has said that it wants to “dethrone” the market leader in Europe. I’m curious as to what that means for the person on the throne.
Andreas Renschler: When it comes to trucks, they have a strategic goal to be on the same level as Daimler trucks; that will not happen in the next 20 years. They have to do a lot. To use common architecture, common platforms around the world needs a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of patience to come to this point.
We are never afraid of competition. It’s very good to have competition because it forces you to have a target and our target is in every region, to be the benchmark. We’re very close here in the United States, and in Europe and Japan we have a little bit to do, but we are on the right track.
Martin Daum: The leading position is never on ‘a throne.’ A throne means ‘I rest on my laurels, and everybody else tries to get close to me.’ The leading position requires the most work. For me, sports is a far better way to explain it. The guys ahead of the competition, they work the hardest. They are not the guys who are lazy. There is a responsibility with it, and you have to work really, really hard to earn that place. To stay there, it’s because you continue to work hard and never rest. They “dethrone” us if we get complacent, and that’s not going to happen.