Facing the Competition
In every field there is a range of quality, and eventually a quality product will pull ahead.
Encountering Other Twisters
- What is the polite thing to do when we encounter other twisters
working? Give the professional courtesy you'd expect if you were
making balloons. I always stop and watch other balloon sculptors,
listen to their patter, and try to pick up some new sculptures.
I've picked up a lot of new ideas this way. If they do something I
particularly like, I'll usually give them a five-dollar tip and ask
them to show me how to make a 'blank.'
- Make friends, but don't step on anyone's toes. I *never* twist
balloons while another twister's "on stage." It's their show: even
if it's a punk kid just twisting doggies, they have the right to be
the resident "expert" while they're on. If I can catch them back
stage after their act or event, I'll usually ask them about some of
the things they've done well and show them a trick or two if I think
it will help.
- NO ONE should pull out a balloon where another performer is working!
Unless a dialog between the performer and the person has begun
prior, such as: "Hey that is a great figure can you show me how?"
or, "I learned this new one could I show it to you?"
- I have been working store front "Grand Openings" and restaurants and
have had balloonists or "wanna-be" balloonists stand right next to
me and start blowing balloons! I immediately tell them that I am
paid to be here, and if you wish to do a balloon give me a call
after and/ or meet me after I get off work. Be up front with
him/her from the start and say "Hey, why are you here making
balloons in a restaurant where I am working?" "Are you hoping to
land my job?" or "Put the balloons away or I will ask the
management to speak with you. What you are doing is unwelcome and
- When another twister showed up at my usual gig, he didn't
immediately make himself known. He just followed me around making
notes on my abilities and designs. As things were winding down for
the evening, he let me know that he would like to talk to me when I
had the chance. (This was at an all-you-can-eat buffet place, where
lingering over your meal was not at all unusual.) When I had pretty
much finished for the night, we sat down and talked for a while. We
exchanged business cards, I directed him towards Balloon HQ, and
since then we've passed a bit of business to each other on dates
that were inconvenient to ourselves.
- I heard about
another twister working a different restaurant from some customers
who were comparing my designs with hers. I went to "her" restaurant
a few weeks later with the sole intention of making contact and
comparing designs. When she was at the next table over, before she
reached mine, One of the kids there asked for a design that she
didn't know how to do. (A "Godzilla") At that point, I spoke up
and told *her*, not the other table, that I knew how to do a
"'Zilla" and asked her if she would like to learn it?
She agreed, and I showed her my "'Zilla" on the spot. The lucky
child at the next table received *two* balloons instead of one. I
noticed that she didn't have any white balloons with her. She told
me that it was a problem with her supplier. I also noticed that she
had both brown and grey 260s, colors that I hadn't yet found a local
source for. I gave her the dozen or so white 260s that I had with
me, and she gave me the name and phone # for her wholesaler. (At
the time I was buying assorted bags from a local retailer, being
*very* new to the business of twisting.)
She and I exchanged cards, and since then have not only sent
business to each other, but when the local Islamic community were
celebrating the end of "Ramadan" (An Islamic Holiday month, I
believe...) we were *both* twisting at the same festival. (this
festival segregates males and females. Having both a male and a
female twister at the event allowed *all* of the children to receive
balloons, and also allowed both of us to receive a paycheck).
This, IMHO, is an *ethical* reason to seek out other twisters in
your area. Not to take business away from each other, but to open
opportunities with each other!
- I was down in Boulder on the Pearl Street Mall on a weekday. I
had some balloons with me, and I saw a child crying because he had
lost his helium balloon. Naturally, I pulled out my emergency stash
of 260s and turned that frown into a smile with a well placed teddy
bear. Shortly I had a small crowd around me wanting balloons. A
dozen or so kids later, I saw a child walk past with a balloon
sculpture that I *know* I didn't make. (Her sculpture included a
350, and I only had 260s with me.) I quickly "ended my line" and
went off in search of the other twister in the area.
I found him just as *he* was finishing up *his* line. (I have
forgotten his name, and he didn't have a card. Call him "Joe".) I
invited "Joe" into a nearby bar and bought him a beer. "Joe" told
me that he was a new twister, and had heard that there was another
twister that busked at that pedestrian mall on the weekends only.
"Joe" was looking for a good afternoon to work the mall when it
wouldn't interfere with the established twister. "Joe" had stopped
when he saw one of *my* sculptures walk past and had planned to come
searching for *me*, to try to work out an arrangement that would be
I told "Joe" that I was from 50 miles north, and was just down to do
some shopping when I saw a chance to make a smile. I had no
intention to try to busk there, (Heck, I didn't even know, at the
time, that there was a twister who regularly worked Pearl Street
Mall!), I just wanted to make a sad child happy. I suggested that
"Joe" come to the mall when the regular busker was there and work
out an arrangement with him/her. I told "Joe" that he and the
regular might form a duo, or just agree to pick different days to do
"Joe" struck me as an ethical twister. He wanted a regular gig, but
wasn't willing to cut into someone else's profits to do so.
Competition Is Good For Business
- Competition gives you credibility, AND, if you look at it
another way, a challenge to make yourself better!
- One year, a really big client tried one of my competitors. It
put me into a panic. But the client came back to me, not because what
I had to offer was better, (we were pretty equal in skill level)
but because I was "a joy to work with", in her words.
My point is that we can become the best, not just by being the
best twister in neighborhood.
- Even though it hurts, and it doesn't seem "kind" or "nice", for
one of my competitors to try to squeeze into the place I've
established, in the end the competition will make me better. Or
maybe I need to find a new line of work?
- I always give prospective clients a check list to follow when
hiring any entertainer:
- What experience do they have?
- What training have they had?
- What kind of contribution have they made to their industry, if
- What references do they have?
- I am always willing to send out a list of references. I keep
them in the permanent memory of my computer, ready to fax at any time.
Don't Bad-Mouth the Competition
- Don't bad mouth the competition. They are their own worst
There are several other twisters in my area that haven't
put the same time, effort and $$$ that I have into training, but
keep twisting. There is one in particular that turns people in
my area off, and I am asked if I am that ONE. My response is a
simple, "No." They say, "Good," and I say nothing. Remember:
if you can't say anything good about someone, SHUT YOUR MOUTH!
You can ruin your own business reputation by being a complainer.
People won't remember your twisting skills, but they will remember
how you bad-mouthed your peers, even if you are justified!
- There are several people to whom I would love to respond, "No,
I'm not so-n-so. I smile every time I give someone a balloon." or
"No, I charge more than so-n-so 'cuz I learn new figures."
I just tell them I charge what I charge because I feel that
it is a fair price for the experience, entertainment and
professionalism that I will deliver if they hire me.
- I don't know how many times I hear customers compare me or
other twisters, EVERY week. I just explain that everyone
has their own style and that we're unique in our twisting.
(We're not copies of each other.)
- I understand the problem with low quality twisters. I hesitate
to say "competition." What you need to do is stress your good points.
Are you entertaining, quick, and do you further your education? Let
prospective employers know that when they hire you, they get the
best (and they don't want anyone but the best representing their
establishment now, do they?).
- In every field there is a range of quality and eventually a
quality product will pull ahead. Forget the bad twisters, clowns
and magicians - they only make you look better by comparison. Watch
them, learn from their mistakes, teach them if you are willing and
then move on. Show a little compassion because every one of us
started out there. Have you tried educating them?
Let them know how good they can be, with a bit of work. Let
them know that better paying jobs can be theirs, if they will put
out the effort. Offer to help them. You would be surprised at the
number of people that will turn down a free lesson. At least some
of them will leave their agency in disgust when they find out how
they are being used. Some may actually evolve into serious
competition. It keeps you on your toes.
- Refrain from saying anything bad about peers. Most clients
frown on that kind of thing. I'm sure they're taking everything he
says with a grain of salt, and will definitely look at you as a
class act for not getting involved in any kind of "I'm better than
he is" fight.
- Your work will speak for itself. You have developed your own
style which is different from his. Explain why you are different
but never talk down another performer. It makes you look bad,
and will always come back to haunt you.
- The area that I live in is very competitive. Many of the
entertainers here are cutthroat. I have been the person that used to
work for them, the person they trained, the person that trained
them. People will say anything they can to try to say they are
better than me to try and get jobs from underneath me. I've even had
a lady show up at one of my restaurants and slander me to the staff.
She said nothing but lies (horrible things) hoping to make me lose
work. It would have been so easy for me to stoop down to the level
they are at. I've even had people call me up and threaten me because
I took shifts at restaurants they didn't want. One Lady used my
credentials to get into a big event last year! Now that I placed at
Tjam suddenly when people ask about me those same people speak as if
I was their best friend if it benefits them. I guess if you do a
good job and you are in a competitive area you will always catch
wind of these things. As hard as it may seem, it's better to say nothing
negative. Let them know the things that you are now creating on your
own. New routines etc. Unique from others. What goes around comes
around. Be the best you can be, pray, and don't let them get you
down. You'll be a winner if you try to do the right thing.
Business Ethics - Respecting Professional Space
- Would you seek twisting work at a restaurant that currently
uses another twister? Is it ethical? Is it Fred and Ethical?
- It has happened to me at restaurants where I've worked.
Frankly, it doesn't bother me, probably because my employers have
stuck with me. But a friend of mine in this business considers it
- Sending out your info to a restaurant is promotion. Handing out
cards while another performer is performing is unethical and rude.
- Telling the restaurant ugly things about the current twister
to take his job is unethical. Providing them with your contact
info in case they need another twister in the future for whatever
reason (the original is unavailable, the event requires more than
one twister, they aren't happy with the original twister, etc.) is
not unethical. That's called *competition*. I twist for fun but
decorate professionally. I just sent a letter of introduction and
some pictures to a mall where I know another decorator has worked 4
or 5 times in the last year and a half. Is that unethical? I
don't think so. If they are happy with her work they will stick
with her. If they feel they need additional bids on a job, then they
will contact me. I just let them know I was out here. Now if I
called and pointed out all the mistakes she made or talked her down,
that would be unethical. I wouldn't go give balloons out for free
at a location where someone else was getting paid to make them. I
really like to network with my competition. But I am going to
continue to tell everyone what I do and how to get in touch with me
even if they do have a "regular" that does what I do. I am not
trying to step on anyone's toes. . . just letting the world know I
am here in case they decide they need me. Now I wish my clients
didn't know about my competition :-) but if my competition makes
their presence known, I will know that they are doing their jobs,
not trying to take mine away.
- There is a difference between promotion and unethical
practices. I used to twist at an Applebee's. They paid a company to
have a twister there for a couple of hours on Sat. & Sun. (The
twister themselves were not paid - only tips). I wanted a little
something during the week so I worked dinner hours Tues-Thurs. I did
not get paid by the restaurant. I got my tips just like the other
guy. The other guy was placed by a company and changed every week
and was usually lousy. However I did not take away his time. I DID
seek out this restaurant and I just don't feel bad about it. I
didn't undercut anybody. I agree with the post about promotion and
competition. I work malls and tell every twister who approaches me
how I do it. If they want to try it they do (but very few others
even bother). I putt-putt along and share
everything I can with anyone and everyone - this has never hurt me
and every year my income increases a little more. I usually
attribute this to becoming a better twister and to my wife coming
up with money making schemes (hey we haven't twisted at the local
Laundromat yet). Some things we try work-some don't. People who
hustle and have good hearts will do alright. People who only want a
fast buck will eventually get frustrated and crap out.
- If you approach twisting as a business you have a
responsibility to your business to promote it. In my non-twisting
life I rent out portable toilets (not glamorous but it pays the
mortgage). I bought the first one because I needed to rent one on a
regular basis and the one person who regularly served my area was
expensive, rude and hard to contact. I soon found many people who
saw that I owned my own and wanted to rent it from me. Bought
another one, then four more, built a pump truck (yes, some things I
will always use a pump for!), bought some more toilets and now have
a full time business. Now the guy who I used to rent from is
virtually out of business. I don't feel bad, I approached many of
his customers, as well as new ones, offered competitive pricing and
good service. I wouldn't have had a chance if he had been good at
his job. I didn't slash prices, put him down, vandalize his equipment
or engage in any other practices I would consider unethical.
As I expanded (geographically) I got into competition with
others. I developed working relationships with those competitors so
that I will supply their customers in my area and they supply my
customers in theirs (we still compete enough so the consumer doesn't
get ripped off). I presented a better service at a fair price and
let the customer choose. The result is that there is more business
available to all, and the industry gets a better reputation. The
parallel should be obvious.
- I twist as a sideline and am a contractor for my "straight"
job. It's very common for more than one contractor to be under
consideration for a job, and the customer can end up in a very
delicate situation regarding who they hire.
- It seems to me that those that want to call good competitive
honest business practices unethical MAY be the ones that MIGHT be
complacent and unwilling to go the extra mile to bring something
better to their customers to keep them.
- I too see no reason one can't promote themselves and let people
know they are around in case they may be needed for something. So
long as they are truly promoting themselves by showing what they
have to offer and not by demoting others. People have a right to
know what is out there to be able to be good and educated
consumers, to chose from steak and hamburger, if you will,
depending upon their individual needs and desires.
- If you are good enough and work your best to continue to grow
and bring new ideas to your clients you should not be concerned
about someone else being around or letting others know they are
around. Burger King knows McDonalds is there... some like there
burgers fried, others broiled, some both depending upon the day of
the week even. The only thing to be concerned with would be someone
deliberately undercutting or causing negativity towards you unjustly.
- Some care has to be taken. There is a difference in competing
and undercutting, but I am confident that most of us know that
difference well enough to avoid confrontations. Competition is not
unethical, on the contrary, as long as it is kept honest. A bit of
competition forces constant betterment.
- Consider the principles of capitalism, and take a look at the
issue from the restaurant owner's point of view. If you were the
customers, rather than the twister in this situation, you'd want the
best balloon you could get. And the restaurant owner would want the
best "artist" for his money. Right? We should
look at it as a nudge and try to improve our own skills so that the
restaurant owner WANTS to stick with us because we're "the best".
- Consider this scenario:
You're having dinner with your significant other at "Happy Bunny
Burger." A twister with a filthy polka-dotted shirt, three days
stubble on his chin, ripe with body odor, comes to your table,
insults your date, makes a three-twist poodle and tells you "that'll
be five bucks."
Would it be unethical to suggest to the manager that this twister is
probably not the best for the venue? Would it be unethical to hand
over a card and say that the next time she gets a call from the
drunk tank saying that Sleazoid the Clown won't be in today she
should consider calling you?
No. That's not unethical, not in my book.
I've taken website business away from people because I went to a
site of a friend or acquaintance and found misspellings and
grammatical problems, broken links and weird layouts. I have no
compunctions about taking this business because the customer was not
being provided with good service and wasn't aware that better
- I have personally had an individual approach all my major gigs
and even undercut my price. I am happy to say that three out
of four of my clients have turned this individual down. The fourth
one is just looking at price and not quality. The individual who is
trying to undermine my operation is totally unqualified, unethical
and is not a very nice person.
I'm a free market kinda guy. This is the free market in operation.
The fact that three out of four customers prefer YoYo to their
patients who chew gum shows that YoYo is providing valued services
at a price that the customer finds reasonable. Nobody can "take
business away" if you're providing the best service for the money.
Ethics, schmethics. Ethics are subjective. My ethical standards are
different from everyone else's - there are too many grey areas for
everyone to agree. Ethics vary from culture to culture, city to
city, neighborhood to neighborhood. Ethics change depending on the
situation. Ethics are only valued by ethical people. The only reward
for behaving ethically is in your own head - the ability to look in
the mirror. If you look for outside approval for your ethics you
won't find it. You will be rewarded for things you do that meet with
other people's ethical standards, but never for your ethics
You can complain about unethical people, you can revile them for
their underhanded practices, you can bemoan how they are destroying
the industry, but the only real defense against them is to always
improve your skills, employ good marketing, and provide a high level
of service at a fair price. No one can take that away, and you will
steadily build a loyal clientele over time. The occasional loss of a
gig to someone who's undercutting your price won't matter at all in
the long run.