I love competition. I’m a car dealer. In my opinion, there isn’t a more competitive business sector on Main Street, U.S.A. than the sale of new and used vehicles.
I’ve mellowed somewhat in my current position as General Manager. It’s one that forces me to see the overall picture of our multi-department business as opposed to throwing myself into each and every potential car deal, which is exactly what I did as a young Salesman and Sales Manager.
And boy, did I throw myself into every car deal. I despised losing a sale to another dealer. I took it as nothing less than absolute, personal failure when one of my potential customers would go elsewhere to buy. I would lay awake all night in perpetual rage and self-loathing, replaying the “steps to the sale” and wondering what I did or didn’t do to lose the deal. My wife, in an attempt to console, would often say “Maybe they just liked the other car better.” I would respond “Maybe so”, but in my mind I was thinking “Nope. I lost. I got beat. The other guy at the other dealership did a better job than I, and that is why he sold the car and I didn’t.”
Yes, I hated losing. But, I would always come back stronger. By recognizing my mistakes, I would come back to work the next day even more determined to satisfy the next customer enough so that he or she would decide to do business with me.
Competition is good for business. It makes us better businesspeople. It makes our customers happier.
In the car business, we all play by the same rules. Every car dealer in Mississippi is governed by the Motor Vehicle Commission. It is a level playing field 99.999% of the time, and when the .0001% get caught trying to tilt the rules in their favor, they are dealt with by the law appropriately.
When everybody plays by the same set of rules, that’s real competition that benefits everyone.
But, when one side is playing by one set of rules and the other side is playing by a completely different set, that’s nothing more than a crooked card game, a baseball team with end-loaded bats, or a renegade car dealer rolling back the odometer of a pre-owned vehicle.
In other words, that’s charter schools versus traditional public schools.
Over the next eight months, we are going to hear a lot from charter proponents in Mississippi. They are going to tout charter schools as bringing “competition” into the “marketplace” of public education.
When you hear these well-intentioned folks speak at civic clubs, community forums, etc., please keep the following in mind: real competition requires a level playing field with one governing body and one, universal set of rules for all players.
Anything different from this is a casino market in which “the house” — i.e. charter schools — always wins.
For more on the loaded dice game of charter vs. public, please click here.