The rich know when to grow the total pie

There are some rare, but fascinating, exceptions to the rule that competition is bad.

South African-born innovator Elon Musk is doing something unusual with his electric sports car company, Tesla Motors: openly giving away his technology and ideas in order to create competition. Why on earth would he do such a thing? The answer is threefold.

One: the more players enter the electric car industry, the more the total infrastructure for such cars will grow, thus supporting expansion of Musk’s own business. Success for others guarantees success for him.

Two: greater popularity for the concept of electric cars will also mean greater sales for him, as more and more people shift from traditional fossil fuels.

Three: Musk believes he is rendering a service to humanity in creating environmentally friendly cars. This may be driven purely by noble motives, or a bit of clever theatre to attract customers, or (and I personally have no problem with this idea) a bit of both. In Musk’s unique situation, it works in his favour to grow an entire industry.

The professional speaking industry is another example of this dynamic. Although each of us diligently works to be seen as the best, it is useful, profitable and desirable for us all to support one another and grow the pie as a whole. It is not unusual for professional speakers in South Africa to coach, mentor and grow one another, nor for us to recommend other speakers to our clients. Here’s why: we sell ideas. The more benefit the market sees in the concept of us, the better for everyone.

Every poor speaker who delivers low value for a high fee damages our industry and our chances of continuing to be seen as worth engaging. To keep the perception of what we do at a premium, it is well worth our while to ensure the success of others.

Also, unlike the one-off purchase of an item, buying the services of a speaker is endlessly repeatable. For this reason, a successful sale by one speaker does not preclude a successful sale to that same client by another speaker at a later date. The better the first speaker does, the greater the chances of repeat bookings for everyone else.

In the industry that you choose, you certainly want to stand out. But there is no doubt that some industries benefit tremendously from a grow-the-pie-for everyone approach.

Perhaps the cornerstone of this particular approach is that an industry thrives on credibility. Elon Musk is growing the credibility of a new type of car. Professional speakers are growing the credibility of intangible ideas delivered to the workforce. When credibility is paramount, the grow-the-pie option is smart.


Poverty mindset: This is a small industry. I have to be selfish about my share.

Wealth mindset: This is a small industry. We should grow it so that everyone’s share becomes greater.


Douglas Kruger is a business author and professional speaker. See him in action, or read his articles, at Douglas’s books, including ‘Is Your Thinking Keeping You Poor? 50 Ways the Rich Think Differently,’ are available at Exclusive Books, Estoril, CNA, and as ebooks from


A gift for you

Douglas’s articles are always free for use in your magazines, newspapers or e-zines. Many have been previously published in magazines like Entrepreneur or online forums like They focus on entrepreneurship, public speaking, expert positioning and innovation. Please attribute any articles used, and drop Douglas an email so that he can also publicise your title.