/ Is Competition on the Executive Team Healthy?

I love the TV show Mad Men. In addition to the great clothes, Don Draper’s good looks, and three-martini lunches, it is just so cleverly written.

A recent episode stuck with me. The executive in charge of “Beans” at the Heinz Food Company did not want the executive in charge of “Ketchup” to use the Madmen Ad Agency. “Ketchup” had always been the company darling.  The “Beans” executive was possessive of the agency because it had helped his less-exciting product line finally grab some attention-getting results. While this move may have helped his career, it really wasn’t good for Heinz’s bottom line. It got me thinking: Is competition among the executive team healthy for the overall business?

Competition and Animosity

In my own experience, I’ve seen competition make—and break—morale, leadership, and revenue goals in companies large and small. Let’s start small:

I joined Domo, a start-up, a little over a year ago. One thing I love about the company is that every executive truly wants to see the other succeed. While I believe this has a lot to do with the caliber and integrity of the executive team, I also think it has a lot to do with the fact that we are all shareholders and want to maximize the value of the company —this only happens if we all are amazingly successful at our roles, and we therefore push each other.

On the other hand, I worked for an international corporation for several years. During my time there, we had two senior executives that were so competitive, they could not be in the same room together. I had to plan meeting agendas so that they did not have to be present at the same time. And while they were both very successful, it was clear that competition had turned into outright animosity.

So we have an international corporation with executives at each others’ throats, and a start-up with executives who’ve got each others’ backs. Both have competition, but is the “healthy” part of “healthy competition” tied to the stage and/or size of the company?

Actually, it seems that the competition is mostly tied to the numbers, and if you can’t come to a consensus on the facts, then animosity quickly festers. And the bigger the company, the bigger the stakes if your numbers are off. But when you have a single version of the truth that every executive can access, then a massive chunk of frustration is removed from the equation. When everyone’s on the same page, animosity gets pared down to simply trying to outperform each other rather than out-report each other. Yes, I’m talking about what Domo’s executive management platform helps companies achieve.

Everyone Playing from the Same Rule Book

I’ve seen Domo deployed across companies of almost any size, and seeing the numbers as they really are makes the world of difference. One executive will deploy Domo for his/her department, and other executives will see how it really changes their relationship with data and want access to Domo, too. Then there’s no argument about what the numbers are saying; there’s just solid competition about who can put the best numbers on the board before the next exec meeting.

Here’s a great example: Bohme is a women’s retailer that uses Domo. Each of its locations (almost twenty) has all of its sales data in Domo, and they often set up competitions to see which store can outsell the others on a given product or just overall sales for the day, week, or month.  Bohme’s revenue has jumped 15 percent using Domo, because the store managers can see the same numbers, share tips, and engage in healthy competition.

Having widespread, real-time access to accurate data makes a huge difference. Executive leadership skills, company morale, and revenue—they all go up when you can get some good competition going. And the best way to keep the competition healthy is to make sure everyone is playing from the same rulebook and looking at the most accurate data.

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