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One reason you don't want to be Bill Gates

Bill Gates retires from Microsoft tomorrow. He’s a brilliant man, one of the richest people on the planet. He may end up more famous for his philanthropy than for his software company. And he never got the web.

As Time Magazine notes, “…there is no greater blinder than success, even for a visionary like Bill Gates.” So tied was Gates to the Windows monopoly, he missed, for a time, the fundamental change the web wrought. Once he realized its importance, he miscalculated the way to respond, leading to a costly antitrust trial and countless bad PR.

Every business faces competitive threats. Every day, in fact. For many small business owners, those threats will come via the web. Or the mobile web. It might be internet print shops threatening your brick and mortar store, Amazon’s avalanche crushing your retail outlets or online brokers breaking your bank. You can’t avoid competition. And you can’t necessarily continue as you always have.

But, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed. All it takes is looking at what you do and how you differentiate yourself from online only competitors (hint: service is often a big plus). Remember, threats to you also reflect threats to your traditional competitors and opportunities for you to exploit. Heck, despite their mis-steps, even Microsoft seems to be doing just fine these days.

So, maybe you want to be like Bill Gates after all.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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