This afternoon, one of my office managers called me. “It has happened again,” she fumed. One of our competitors had cut and pasted verbiage from our website directly onto her own. Had it been five years ago, I would have been fuming right along with her, but experience has taught me to breathe and remind myself that imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.
I started an educational consulting business twelve years ago, and in doing so, I also pioneered the industry in the Greater Vancouver area. As a lifelong educator, I take great pride in the ethics and support of my peers. I quickly learned that business functions very differently than education. The first few years were full of hard work, late nights, and a constant fight to find enough hours in the day. I had almost no competition. Slowly, different competitors began to emerge. I would hear about them from my loyal clients or stumble upon them on the internet. Each time, my heart would stop, my palms would sweat and I would swear the phone was going to stop ringing. I went into immediate panic mode. But my wise husband would calm me down and remind me to take the emotion out of it. Instead, he advised me to focus on what I did well — really well. I would then sit down, make a list of who we are as a business and what we do best, and re-focus. Each time, I would challenge myself to come up with a new service or program that was uniquely our own.
These experiences have taught me the art of thoughtful reflection. It’s important to understand what you do and why. To know it intimately, to question it, to innovate it and to constantly be striving to get it to the next authentic level. My competition-driven panic attacks also taught me to treat what I do, especially in a service based industry, as a privilege. These days, every time I see a competitor pop up, (and it happens regularly now), I breathe a sigh of relief for having such a loyal client base, and I vow to raise our level of knowledge and service to honour them.
Today, I embrace competition, and I know it is good for both my business and the industry that I have worked so hard to establish in Vancouver. When people have choices, they ask questions. Tough ones. I am ready to answer them, and I have built a team who has helped to define my business and its mission. We know who we are and we’re continually inspired to be the industry leader. We’ll keep reaching for that brass ring!
Melinda Giampietro, President of Options Solutions, is a vibrant and widely respected educational consultant in the fields of academic planning, career counseling, university admissions, and sports recruitment. Melinda believes options are empowering, and she helps students–and their parents–work together to find post-secondary institutions that match each student’s unique academic aspirations. She holds multiple degrees in Education, and is a graduate of both the Counseling for College Institute and the Harvard Institute on College Admissions.