Facing the Competition

Feb 14, 2023

Facing the Competition

In every field there is a range of quality, and eventually a quality product will pull ahead.
– Unknown

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 unprofessional.”
  • 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 mutually beneficial.

    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 their twisting.

    “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:
    1. What experience do they have?
    2. What training have they had?
    3. What kind of contribution have they made to their industry, if any?
    4. 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 enemies anyway.
  • 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 bad form.
  • 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 options existed.

  • 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 themselves.

    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.

MB 12/13/95
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