Cars going past football stadium. Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

Ford is ready to hit the market with it’s latest car: the Mustang Mach-E.

According to Forbes, the car is set to go head-to-head with Tesla’s Model Y.

Probably what is most interesting is what’s buried below the surface here. It looks like Ford let Tesla do a lot of their work for them.

It may be a master stroke of planning genius by Ford.  And it has a lot of lessons for us, as business owners and leaders.

Let’s dig into what we can learn from this.

Lesson 1: Your Competitors Are Probably Testing Things For You

It has long been the case in the beverage industry that one way to grow is to acquire other brands. It’s mentioned as being part of Coca-Cola’s path to growth in recent years in this article.

Depending on your company, it’s size, it’s employee base, culture and other factors it may or may not be realistic to expect massive innovation from the inside.

Whether or not your company can innovate your competitors are likely innovating. They are testing new things. They will give you signs of what is working and what isn’t.

Tesla has been testing electric cars for some time. They’ve had a good run of growth. They have shown the market accepts electric cars and they have the possibility of going mainstream.

It appears Ford has been watching this and looking for the time to capitalize on this.  And it’s here: 2020.

And in your business your competitors are probably trying new things too. What’s working? How is there business evolving? There are likely some powerful clues there.

Lesson 2: Watching Their Tests Can Save A Lot of Money And Effort

There is no doubt that the cost of testing new innovations is high.  All of us that have been in business for any period of time know that there is a high cost to failure. There is time, salaries, production costs and lost opportunities in every failure.

And as much as we want to be trying lots of things and failing forward at some point the cost is too much. We can only run so many tests and fail so many times.

At some point we have to just focus on our core business and make money. Which means we generally don’t have the time or money to research every innovation.

And that’s where watching your competitors can save a lot of money and effort.

Tesla put a lot of money into building it’s plants, testing initial cars, and seeing if the market would take to electric cars.

And after enough testing it probably became clear to Ford that electric cars had a future. Almost all of that expense was on Tesla, not Ford.

With the market validated Ford can just step in without having to start from scratch. They can even scrape a lot of marketing know-how from what Tesla has done so far.

And so can you the business owner. You can capitalize on what you are seeing in the market and save a lot of cost and expense.

Lesson 3: You Need to React At The Right Time

Ford’s timing on releasing the Mach-E is probably not accidental. They’ve likely been watching Tesla for some time.

The Tesla Model Y is expected to be their best selling model according to Forbes. And Ford has timed their competitive model to be released at about the same time as the Model Y.

Ford waited long enough to know that electric cars are real, but reacted soon enough that Tesla has not become entrenched in the market as the leader.

And so too we need to time our reactions. If we are watching a trend our competitors are testing we don’t want to get in too soon nor too late.

Lesson 4: The Smartest Minds Are Probably Not (All) Working For You

It’s a funny thing about smart people. As you move along in life you start finding this truth: they are everywhere.

At least in the higher leadership and management roles in business being smart is just part of the price of admission.

This being the case it is certainly true that your company doesn’t employ all of the smart people in your industry. In fact the more likely situation is that your competitors (at least combined) probably have more smart people than you do.

With that known there are going to be things that your competitors innovate that you miss. Even if you have a full budgeted research plan you aren’t going to be ahead of everything.

So be realistic and know ideas will come from everywhere. We, as business owners and leaders, must know to look at the entire business landscape to get the best ideas for our businesses.

Lesson 5: Innovation Is Everywhere

Going broader than where the best minds are we have to know that innovation is everywhere.

As I often discuss on the Future Done Right(™) Show many times innovations come to us from other industries or market forces.

Keep an eye on other industries and marco trends.

Sometimes and innovation is happening in another industry that can revolutionize yours. If you are the first to see something is working somewhere else you could be the first to bring that to your industry and gain the rewards. 

Innovation often comes from looking for it. Keep questioning where you are and what you can do better. Eventually you might find the right thing.

What To Do Now

If you are reading this and thinking “how do I do this?” now is the time to set a strategy.

Monitoring innovations of others can be a very cost effective way to conduct research. But like anything you do well it has to be part of a system and process.

If you can’t figure out how to get that right there are consultants that can help. My consulting firm, and others, can help you get the right systems and processes in place to make sure you stay ahead in this fierce business world.

DISCLAIMER: Many business strategies are discussed in this article. Implementation of some of the strategies could lead to potential legal claims by competitors. While I am licensed as a lawyer in multiple states I am not providing you any legal advice. Consult your own counsel before taking any business actions.

By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the business nerd and long-time business attorney that focuses on changes of ownership in businesses. He works with business owners that know their business is about more than themselves to get ready for their future through keynotes, training and personalized solutions. In furtherance of this he hosts The Future Done Right(TM) Show where he collects, digests and gives lessons and insights on The Future of Business. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.

You’ll quickly notice his unusual suits which he uses open the conversation of how businesses should Do Business Differently™.

The Our Shawn is based in DeLand, Florida (between Orlando, Florida and Daytona Beach, Florida) and Dallas, Texas where he keeps offices. You can also find Shawn on webinars or traveling nationally or internationally for speaking engagements.

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