Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

February 2001

What Vince Lombardi didn't know

Vince Lombardi was wrong, Winning IS everything but it's very tough to be the number one and also
be the winner (ask Al Gore.)

Avis suggested that being second meant it tried
harder and was therefore a better value for the car renting public.

But let me tell you about third place. It may change the way you pick stocks, rent cars, choose partners, rent chain saws and live your life, okay?

First, though, a word or two about being first. Like Billy the Kid and every fastest gun in the West learned, everyone comes gunning for number one. When you are number one (Tiger Woods, are you listening?) the expectations are so high that even when you win, your performance is criticized, discounted and trivialized.

I worked for two companies that held dominant market positions (greater than 50 percent market shares). Each company had to fend off crazed competitors and government scrutiny. Dominant companies are not allowed to win price wars without being called predators. A minority market share can be increased significantly through promotion and innovation, picking off a point here and there. But majority shares are generally limited by category growth. Believe me, after years of dominating a category, someone's going to come up with a new category. My old employer dominated the asphalt roofing shingles business to such a degree that someone had to develop fiberglass shingles, reposition cedar shakes and elevate tiles to the fashion leader

In short, if you're at a poker table and you have nearly all the chips, you've got a lot to lose against very little to gain. Play carefully or look for a new game.

Now, number two IS a better position than number one. Race car drivers like to draft behind the leader, waiting for the final lap to slingshot by for the win. There's a discernible difference, I think, when state capitals are in second cities like Montpelier, Augusta, Albany, Tallahassee, Austin and Sacramento as opposed to Boston, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and Denver. For one thing, the daily papers in second city state capitals have more news reporters than sports reporters.

But there is a definite disadvantage to being a perpetual second, like Chicago. Actually, Chicago has two problems: it's second to New York, which is why it is referred to as Second City. Its other problem is its status as first-Second City. Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and, even, Charlotte (North Carolina not Vermont) are all shooting at Chicago for national Second City recognition. So being second is tough on your mental health. How many Super Bowls in a row did Buffalo lose?

Now, you know the guy who wrote the book, "Everything I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten"? Well, here's what I learned in the third grade after two very difficult years as the second-fastest, -toughest, -biggest competitor in school yard games. I was the other captain and my team always got the stuffing kicked out of us. That is until the day Gary Joe showed up. He not only beat me out of second but was in a virtual dead heat in every category with Frank. From that day forward, every time we chose up sides whoever got first choice picked me, and I never again was on the losing side in a game of scrub, dodge ball, bat man, tag or tackle.

My friends, number three is the balance of power.