Should you capitalize on the mistakes of others or should you ignore the obvious opportunity to grow your business because it’s at the expense of another? It’s a question most entrepreneurs will encounter at one point in the growth of their business.

It may seem opportunistic and even callous to take advantage of other peoples’ mistakes and misfortunes, but in a competitive market, this is how market share shifts IF it’s done effectively and ethically.

Imagine this scenario. Your indirect competition is showing clear signs of going out of business, but in talking with their suppliers and/or customers, it becomes obvious that their customers have no idea what is going on.

It’s a bit of a conundrum.

On the one hand, increasing your customer base would benefit your bottom line while at the same time, you’d be helping customers who are about to be stranded by their supplier. But it could also be what forces that business to finally close down.

What you don’t want to do is go calling on their customers spreading rumors about their alleged, soon-to-be closing signs and bash that business. Bad mouthing another business, even if justified, never works and only serves to make you look bad.

Instead, you need to do a little research to get your facts straight before deciding how to handle the situation. Talk to your industry contacts to find out what is going on behind-the-scenes. This may even require doing a little secret shopping and contacting the business as a prospective customer.

Whatever you do, have a little empathy.

We are all just one decision, one action away from being in the exact same position. The next business desperately struggling to keep its doors open could be yours.

As much as you may want to blame it on poor leadership, know that often leadership has nothing to do with it. As many discovered during the economic downturn, external factors can be unpredictable and powerful in determining the success or failure of a business.

In the going-out-of-business scenario described above, you have two choices:

Option 1: Approach their customers to see who may be a good fit for your business. Be forthright in letting them know that you know they are currently working with another supplier, but instead of launching into a slander campaign, highlight what you offer by comparison.

Don’t assume you can go in there like a shark and scoop up their remaining customers. Just as your first aim in sales is to build a relationship with any new prospect, view this as an opportunity to pre-sell them on your company for when the situation with the other business becomes more apparent.

Option 2: Approach the business that is struggling about a potential partnership. Not only does this enable you to expand your product or service offerings, it broadens your target audience and taps into the goodwill built with their customer base.

Partnering with you may be the opportunity the other business owner has been waiting for to finally get out of the rat race. Chances are if the business has been struggling long enough to almost be out of business, the entrepreneur is ready to exit.

The key is to approach the mistakes of others with integrity. It’s not about stepping on someone else to get ahead; it’s about giving others a helping hand. Be prepared to take the high road and get nothing from it.

That is the only way you can be assured of getting anything from it.

Need help coming up with ideas to grow your business and leverage opportunities? Contact me to book your one-hour power session now!