The Impact of Competition

Early spring is a great season for sports fans. March Madness concluded with the University of Virginia men’s team and the Baylor University women’s team winning the NCAA National Basketball Championships. Tiger Woods completed his improbable golf comeback by winning his fifth Masters Championship. NHL hockey and NBA basketball playoffs have taken off, as well as the MLB regular baseball season.

What makes this time of year so exciting is the level of competition that takes place. March Madness celebrates the win-or-go-home format, the Masters is the first of four major golf tournaments, NHL and NBA teams are playing in seven-game series for world championships, and MLB ends its exhibition season to begin the regular one. Because of the importance of each game, the intensity of the competition is heightened.

Competition has a way of bringing out the best in individuals–pushing them beyond what they normally could and would do. Competition can have the same impact on businesses. During a recent trip to Denver, I walked into the airport rental car facility to pick up my reserved car. I noticed that the building had recently been renovated: everything was bright and clean, reminding me in some ways of an Apple store. There was a well-marked line, and a greeter welcomed me and other customers as we entered the queue. When an agent became available, the greeter directed me not to a counter, but to a desk where a polite agent was ready to assist me. After being offered a drink, I was able to quickly complete the necessary paperwork and get on my way.

In my work with Christian schools, I am noticing a trend of increased competition that schools are facing when recruiting students. Parents have more choices today than at any other time in history: homeschooling, charter schools, independent schools, public schools, even virtual and online options. The impact of this increased competition challenges us to continually improve our schools as well as better understand our own value proposition. Competition forces us to understand who we are and what makes us different from the other options available to families.

As in the case of the rental car company, Christian schools need to embrace competition, using it to stimulate growth and become the best schools they can be. Competition should challenge us to think about how we serve our families and educate our students. It should encourage us to study new technologies and curriculum to make sure that we are providing the best for our students. It should motivate us to act decisively in hiring excellent teachers, as they are the ones delivering on the value proposition.

As leaders, are you aware of your school’s strengths and weaknesses? Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of other options in your community? How are you measuring up to those schools, and how effective are you in enrolling students who are looking at various options? As you look to the future, what new initiatives are you considering and why?

Needless to say, I was really impressed by my rental car experience in Denver. It was different than any prior interaction that I have had, and I look forward to using that company again in the future. One thing that is for sure: without competition, the changes made probably would not have happened. Competition is a good thing for the customer and for the business and for the school that wants to fully live into its mission.

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