Birdtables & Competition, What on earth could they have in Common?

Birdtables & competition, what on earth could they have in common? Quite a lot actually.

It’s a story I have enjoyed sharing with a couple of people and each time I share it, it gets added to and I’m hoping you’ll get the idea too and add to it as well by leaving a comment at the bottom.

The Almighty Bird Table

bird tables and competitionSat on the doorstep one morning, sipping the first coffee of the day with the sun just coming up. I can see numerous little birds darting around the next door neighbours bird table.

This isn’t just any bird table, this is a monster bird table, you know the ones, side trays, four hanging points and a collection of goodies to attract even the most timid of creatures.

The owner, who I’ll call Mr B spends a fortune on bird food to attract them, he had tried the cheap stuff and now spends £40 a bag on the really expensive bird feed, some special seeds of some form and takes delight in after a hard days work, watching the birds come from all around to feast on the banquet through the kitchen window.

Mr B has really got into bird watching and now in his office he has started to collect a library of books to help him identify the different species of birds that arrive at his table. For over a year that bird table has been the hub of all bird activity for the row of houses where I live.

We put a small one up ourselves, but due to the cats we have, the peanuts & half-hearted attempt we made, we’ve only seen one bird on it in maybe 6 years. No competition for the all-mighty table that Mr B has.

And Then…

We had a new next-door neighbour arrive, Mr A a few months back and Mr A popped an equally large and luxurious bird table. I’m going to label this as “The Competition”.

But Mr A, had put his table in the wrong place, it was in the clearing between two large shrubs and very few birds actually visited the table & it’s not so luxurious offerings. The little birds like a lot of cover to keep safe (mainly from our two cats, as they like to eat little birds if given half a chance) and the table being in the middle gave them no cover.

Now Mr B, could have thought “Bastard Mr A, he’s nicking my birds”. After all Mr B’s table has been the hub of all bird activity in the street for quite some time, he’d taken the extra step to research the different species of birds that come to the table and spends in my mind, an excessive amount on bird food, watches them each night after work and its developed into a pleasant past-time.

Working Together

Mr B, gave Mr A some advice on where to place his table, after all those little birdies need to feel safe when feeding and even gave him some of his expensive bird food. Mr A’s table was moved nearer to one of the shrubs and Mr A gave it a little more interest than he had been doing previously.

If Mr B had looked at the situation differently, well from the point of view of “He’s nicking my birds”, then I doubt that Mr A’s newer table would have had so many birds frequenting it the table and its delicious snacks this morning without Mr B’s advice.

So What did Mr B Know?

Mr B is a smart cookie, Mr B knows that for the short-term at least, the number of birds that will go to his table will decrease. There is only a finite number of birds available to feast on his offerings and now it’s potentially been halved by Mr A’s new table. Bad thing right?

Little birdies (as you can tell I’m not really into birds, I’m a big child and laugh at some of their names) when given enough time will multiply with offspring and become fatter birds.

This could take a while to happen, but the combination of the original table & delicious snacks on offer, combined with Mr A’s new banqueting table and some coaching from Mr B will mean that next year, there should be more birds and possibly a great variety too.

Mr B really could have thought “he’s nicking my birds” and pushed the table over drunk one night, but instead decided to take a different approach and help Mr A with his table with some advice and even offered some of his expensive bird food to help attract birds to his table, so Mr A could enjoy them too.

Mr B and Mr A like birds. Together they’re stronger together than just one of them by themselves, after all we’d like to have more birds and possibly some fat ones too.

I’ve spent the past 6-8 months reading a single book. It’s called “On Competition” by Michael Porter, a Harvard business review book, see the Hardback & Kindle versions (both aff links).

It’s taken me so long to work my way through the book as I’ll read two pages and then relate it back to real life. There are some topics in here I had never even considered such as the competitive advantages that nations have and how fragile diversification is when a company expands outside their core competencies.

In this absolute monster of book Michael covers the topics of “Clusters & Competition”, how the Italian footwear and fashion is clustered by location, how the inter-related businesses from the California wine cluster join together to create a competitive environment and how that by competition in a cluster (Michael uses location for this in the physical sense, but this easily ports to marketplaces as the location) can provide competitive advantage through clustering the businesses together.

So bringing this back to the original bird table owned by Mr B and the new table from Mr A, they are stronger together and will complement each other, MR A certainly is not going to spend £40 on some seeds and will offer a different food source and while crudely the new table could have been seen as competition for Mr B’s original table, together they have a more compelling case to attract more birds from the local area.

My Table, Come Snack at it

I have a bird table like Mr B’s & Mr A’s table, but it needs you to come and snack on the potential goodies from it. You can find out more and see how you can get involved in 3 steps and the forums are here.

13 replies
  1. johnbanny
    johnbanny says:

    Haha, not finished reading the post but mr porter and his forces of competition, great insigtful read. i had to do an essay on this for one of my first year modules at uni.

  2. CJ
    CJ says:

    Reminds me of the ‘Curry Mile’ in Manchester. It’s about a mile of road full of curry restaurants.

    everyone always asks ‘WHY build ANOTHER curry house with 50 already around you?’ but now it’s become the place in manchester to go if you do want a curry.. so they all benefit from that.

    If there was just one curry restaurant there on its own, would it do better than it is now? I doubt it…

    but it does mean that crapper curry houses can leech off the draw of the mile and ‘take’ customers from the higher quality restuarants.

    • Matthew Ogborne
      Matthew Ogborne says:

      Hola CJ,

      Yea, I’ve been on curry mile a few times now, there are loads of them!

      but it does mean that crapper curry houses can leech off the draw of the mile and ‘take’ customers from the higher quality restuarants.

      That may be true, but they’d work out which ones they do and don’t like pretty quickly though?


  3. Martin Cosgrave
    Martin Cosgrave says:

    Ah yes, but what if your cost of getting the seeds on the table (delivery) exceeds the cost of the seeds (um, cider actually), and what if the utility you derive from each bird (aka profit margin, stretching the analogy a bit!) is very small, and it’s cheap for your neighbours to set up a bird table (low barriers to entry)? Why then you’d be tempted to get drunk one night (on cider of course) and “accidentally stumble” into your neighbours’ bird tables.

    Grr. I hate Mr A! ;) and Mr B!

    Mr C.

    • Matthew Ogborne
      Matthew Ogborne says:

      Dear Mr C,

      Firstly, lol.

      If Mr A and Mr B work together to attract other people to join them at their tables, either directly (come have a cider) or inadvertently (walks past the pub, fancies a tipple), then there are greater numbers of people (demand).

      The number of people that a single pub can hold is limited and also attract (market forces) and will find a level where the pub is not overcrowed nor (hopefully) empty. Someone else may also set up a pub next door (Nova & Pump house), but these two places of drinking are different and attract two different types of customer (the cool guys and the students/toff), but directly complement each other in the practice of enjoying cider (supply).

      I’m so lost now its unreal, pint?



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