Alpha traits are key to leadership success. Business leaders can learn from these top predators how to outsmart the competition and never cede ground.
In recent years, coyotes have made themselves at home across the United States, Canada and Central America. In the community and neighborhoods near Boston where I live, people see them almost daily.
Unlike the classic cartoon character Wile E. Coyote — always outwitted by his crafty nemesis, Road Runner — the real-world coyote has become a paragon of adaptation and resilience. Think about it: They compete with dogs and people whose property they’ve claimed to raise future generations.
So I’m issuing a clarion cry to all leaders, everywhere: Summon your inner alpha and apply these five lessons for dealing with coyotes to handle — and foil — the competition.
Tap into your inner alpha
Everyone has alpha traits in them, and that’s a good thing when facing dominant, powerful competition. The alpha traits most useful for foiling the competition are confidence, dominance, facing conflict head-on, resilience, and being enterprising and bold.
Push forward with confidence
When confronting a coyote, you must summon your inner alpha by projecting dominance and strength, puff out your chest to appear larger, make unfamiliar noises, carry a stick and walk toward the animal while looking it straight in the eye. If you back away out of fear or simply because you think the coyote will leave of its own volition, the animal will claim dominance over you, with potentially dangerous consequences.
When it comes to your company, project it as large regardless of its actual size, stay strong and push your strategy forward with unbridled confidence. Customers will embrace you. Competitors may not like you but will respect your strength, and may even back off. Although competitors may be larger, they’re frequently not as nimble or able to adapt quickly to market conditions. Use a larger competitor’s slow pace to your advantage by seizing market and sales opportunities before they get wind of what they’re missing.
Understand your competitors
As coyotes have a keen understanding of the world around them, know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Respect their strengths and learn from them if possible; focus on how you can use their weaknesses against them. Apply your strengths with customers and prospects for sales growth and business expansion.
Sharpen your senses and fine-tune your competitive intelligence so you’re on high alert when a competitor is thinking about making a move that could affect your business in the short or long term. Determine when a pivot is needed to achieve more substantial business growth.
Fence them out
Coyotes will frequently find a way to get over, under or through the fence around your property if it’s not high or buried deep enough into the ground. Knowing this is an external issue that’s hard to control, plan to deal with coyotes in your backyard using the alpha dominating tactics I noted earlier. You should be able to surprise the animal, and watch it skulk off into the shadows and other places for comfort.
Likewise, focus your company’s attention on competitive strategies such as rapid scaling. This will force competitors to seek their comfort zone in other markets. Plug holes in your competitive strategy. Don’t inadvertently allow your competition to encroach on your market and customer base. Identify and understand threats to your market share. Be sure to proactively protect your intellectual property, whether trademarks, trade secrets, copyright or patents.
Don’t encourage competition
Mark Twain mentions the coyote in his book, Roughing It, as “a living breathing allegory of want, he is always hungry.” To discourage coyotes, don’t leave any food out. Not only will food attract them, they’ll return to that same feeding spot expecting the food to be there.
Discourage the competition from elbowing their way in on your market. Identify untapped markets and rapidly build up market share before your competitors know about the market. Erect barriers to entry, such as unique technology that would take a huge investment to duplicate, endorsements from key industry opinion leaders, exclusive targeted distribution channels and any regulatory approvals to enter the market.
Be strategically noisy
Practice coyote hazing with noise that catches them off guard. Yell, then suddenly bang something, continue moving toward the animal and puffing out your chest to show dominance, keeping eye contact with it. Eventually, the coyote will retreat.
Surprising, unexpected noises in business translates to your company being intentionally visible. Unless you’re a startup in stealth mode, silence will render your business invisible. Confound the competition by using targeted media in your market through a variety of platforms — video, e-blasts, social media, your website and trade shows, whether in person or virtual. Garner earned media in market publications to get your message out. Focus on publications that give you maximum visibility. If your business is seasonal, time your media exposure to ensure your message gets in front of your audience precisely when needed.
Learn to live with them
Business competitors – and coyotes — are here to stay, and we must learn to live with them. If you reframe living with business competition as a potential for innovation, think about ways your competitors could be future allies through new strategic alliances. The two global tech giants Apple and Samsung offer a classic example of “coopetition,” in a strategic deal focused on Apple’s content and services.
If you keep the competition in your sights at all times, you’ll also keep your business on its toes, innovating and outmaneuvering companies that will try anything to dominate. The coyote can leap a five-foot fence; what will it take to ensure a competitor doesn’t leapfrog over your business, potentially sending you into a defensive posture because, for a fleeting moment, you weren’t paying attention?
In the same way you summon your inner alpha, project confidence and come to terms with the coyote as a wild animal that uses calculated strategies to outwit you, approach your competition with caution, respect, and an infinite supply of highly calculated cleverness.