As is standard, when I need to visit an area of Ireland, I make sure that I am not travelling just for one meeting. Recently, I visited one town over a three day period. Initially, I was only planning on going once, however, the demand was such that I needed to go twice.
Of the demonstrations that I gave on day one, one particular business, (Business A) was very keen on the system and decided to think about trialling it. When I arrived back in the area on day 3, I discovered that one of the prospects (Business B) was situated literally across the road from Business A. Both of these businesses share a profession and are in direct competition. I carried out the demonstration to Business B as planned.
A few days passed and it became obvious that both businesses were interested in trialling the system. My gut told me that there may be a conflict of interest here. So I asked a couple of people whose opinions I respect. Even with outside advice, I was not sure what action, if any, I should take. So I decided to email Steli Efti. Steli is a person whom I both admire and respect. This admiration is based on how he has become successful and how he continues to help people.
So I asked
I have two early adaptors (INSERT PROFESSION HERE) sign up to use my online booking software. They are literally located across the road from each other. I need to be prepared for when one finds out about the other using my software too. Any quick advice?
To which Steli replied:
why would they care? its online booking software?
I thought about how to explain the situation further so that I could get some more meaningful advice but then it hit me, Steli is right, why would they care? In my mind, I had created this situation out of nothing.
A couple of weeks pass by and Business B has signed up and is successfully taking online bookings. Business A is a little slower and more thorough in their approach and is making sure they know exactly how the system works before going live with it. I was frequently communicating with both A and B and I never mentioned A to B or B to A.
About 2 days before Business A was due to go live, they called me and they were not happy. They said they spotted that Business B was in the system and that they could not join the same system. Here are some of the arguments that I made (from a position of friendly strength):
- Both your businesses are on Google and appear for the same searches
- You would not get rid of your telephone just because your competitor also uses a telephone
- You will be missing out on new customers whilst your competition is gaining them
To my mind, these were all valid points. However, here is the counter argument that Business A made
- We are in direct competition with Business B
- People tend to call us when they want an appointment with them and vice versa. If both of our booking systems are identical, it will only serve to confuse matters further.
- It just won’t work
So I had to admit defeat. I thanked Business A for their honesty and feedback. I recommended an alternative online booking system for them and told them I would be back in touch if Business B ever decides that BookingHawk.com is not the right fit for them.
Should I have handled this situation differently? If so, how? I am forming my own thoughts on it but I would love to hear your thoughts on this so please tweet me @bookinghawk or simply post your comments below.
If you know someone that would benefit from online booking, please let me know about them. I will send you a two paragraph email for you to forward to your friend so it couldn’t be less hassle for you to help a couple of Irish businesses to grow! As a thank you, I will help you out with some advice on your website / SEO / Tech Support.
Hi, my name is Niall Smith and I am the Founder and CEO of BookingHawk.com. I am an experienced software engineer and have worked with companies like AOL, Guidewire, Deloitte and SAP. I am a graduate of The New Frontiers entrepreneur development programme. I live in Dublin, Ireland with my wife. I love to meet other founders and learn from as many people as possible.