Embrace Competition....

31st Jul 2015

The Peak District is a vibrant place.  Picturesque villages nestle amongst the stunning scenery and the colourful characters who live here and the historic buildings reflect the diversity of Britain's first national park.  It is a great place to live and the many climbing venues and easy access also make it a brilliant location for a leisure business like Peak Mountaineering.  We are privileged and we know it.  Of course, we aren't the only people to have forged similar businesses here and, although many live outside the park and travel in to operate here, the place has more than its fair share of outdoor businesses.  So many, infact, that it can be hard to see how they are all sustainable.  
Well the simple truth is that they're not all sustainable.  In our time in business many companies have come and gone and many outdoor sole traders have ceased trading.  But that still leaves plenty of others that continue to trade.  These competitors are challengers to our livelihood and maybe we should fear them? Maybe.....but probably not.  We actually relish the competition and here's why......
I was reading an interview with Techpreneur Didier Rappaport recently.  The interviewer was asking the same question about the dangers of competition.  Rappaport is the founder of video sharing platform Dailymotion which he set up in 2005 only 3 weeks before You Tube launched.  The business could have unravelled quickly, but it actually went on to attract 105 million users before Didier sold it to Orange for £61 million.
Rappaport's view is that competition is something to never be scared of.  The simple fact is, he explains, that if you have a competitor you also have a market.  He concludes that he'd be much more nervous if there was no competition.  Well, on that basis we are certainly in a business rich environment and we've been in business long enough now to realise, like Rappaport, that competition is really something to be energised by.  
If a competitor isn't up to scratch they won't offer the quality of provision we stand by.  If they don't offer good quality service they will ultimately be naturally weeded out because businesses like ours live or die on reputation.   If they don't survive then they don't survive, but for the time they are in business the challenge for suppliers like Peak Mountaineering is in making the customer realise that not all the businesses available are offering the same quality of product.  
At this time of year we get plenty of potential clients making enquiries and, although lots convert to firm bookings, some we never hear from again.  The likelihood is that at least some of them have received a cheaper quote and booked elsewhere and, although we live with that knowledge, we won't change our prices.  We know, for example, that you can get a 2 day Outdoor First Aid course locally for around a third less than the £125 we charge, but we also know our courses are well worth the money.  Our training venue is second to none, we are a training centre for industry leading provider ITC, we deliver the outdoor elements of the course with the stunning backdrop of Mam Tor, we offer a great lunch (included in the price) and our trainers are among the best in the industry.  The price we charge is actually really good value and it won't change.
Similarly, there are companies offering climbing taster sessions for well under half the price of one of our taster days.  Some of these are sold via voucher sites and some of these providers must either have few overheads, pay their instructors poorly, cut back on equipment replacement or have found some tricks to cut costs that we don't know about.  We pay our instructors in line with the going market rate and we use great trainers.  We also use good quality equipment and we operate with small ratios.  We see plenty of the 'pile em high' groups around the Peak and we will never be part of that.  We'll also never sell courses via voucher sites.
The same considerations apply to our expeditions.  Our prices are competitive, but we accept that you can find cheaper.  Although we research what other providers charge, when we price a trip our starting point is the quality of the product rather than what the rest of the market is doing.  We work out the itinerary, consider additional costs, decide on a suitable profit margin and total them all up to find the price we'll charge.  If others are cheaper then there is a reason for that, but it won't sway our pricing. 
Winter courses, private guiding, mountain bike courses and corporate events.  Take your pick - we are happy with how we stack up in this crowded marketplace.  So we really don't mind competition.  We actually relish it.  It forces a business like ours to periodically reassess itself and to make changes as needed.  Mostly, though, it forces us to focus on providing the best quality product we can - that's what keeps us ahead of the competition.  It's that simple.  
Posted by Cal