Competitive Forces

Competitive strategy has become an area of specialty among management researchers and consultants. These specialists find that the competition within an industry is constrained by an underlying structure consisting of five powerful driving forces:

a)    Rivalry among existing firms in the industry

b)   The threat of new firms entering the industry

c)    The bargaining power of suppliers to the industry

d)   The bargaining power of the buyers from the industry

e)    The threat of substitute products or services

The underlying forces determine the profit margins that are characteristic of the industry. They limit the prospects for greater than normal profit margins. They influence the intensity of the competition and the long-term probable outcome of the competition. To entrepreneurs who are not familiar with these forces represent fate.

We often attribute the success of an entrepreneurial venture to its entrepreneur. We shouldn’t detract from the importance of the leader in a new venture, but it is very important to recognize that there are other forces that contribute to the success. A super individual with a good product entering an industry with an adverse underlying structure may have little success. A lessor individual entering an industry with a more favorable structure may succeed despite mistakes and misjudgments.

There may be many factors that influence a business firm’s performance in the short term. These factors are transient such as economic conditions, material shortages or strikes. In the long term, however, the five underlying structural forces determine the potential returns achievable by the industry. The various firms competing within an industry are thereby limited in their potential profit margins and returns on investment.

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