When you think about your competition, how do you account for it? Do you stress over them? Do you find yourself constantly looking at what they are doing? Maybe comparing yourself to them?
I know I did, and sometimes still do. Every move felt like it would change the game for us.
It rarely did! It rarely does!
The Endless Chase
I can remember when we were first starting off. It seemed every day we were consumed by what competitors were doing.
Imagine the paranoia, and we likely experienced it. Maybe it was because we were young in business, inexperienced, or maybe it was a valid concern at the time.
What I do know today however is it was mostly attributed to our own insecurities. Lack of confidence in what we were doing; we could speak it, build it, push it, and yet there was always that little voice in the back of your head, telling you, “you’re not doing enough… they’re doing it better”. That voice never really goes away, what changes though is how you manage it.
They changed their website!
They’re using new language!
Their messaging is so much better!
They have a new partnership!
Maybe it’s normal, and has more to do with the phase you’re in as a company, but is it effective? I can’t help but think it’s not.
It is a suffocating experience, focusing on the competition. It’s important to understand who the competition is, but there is a fine line between keeping tabs and allowing it to engulf you. Always respect, learn from them if you can, but you can’t chase.
If you always require someone in front of you to motivate you, what happens when you’re in the front?
March to The Beat of Your Own Drum
When people describe me, they often use one of two phrases – “he’s a bull in a china shop”, which I obviously don’t deny, and, “he marches to the beat of his own drum..”. I want you to subscribe to the latter one, the first is liable to create a lot of chaos for you and those around you.
Turn your soundtrack to life on, push forward to that tune. Don’t get consumed with the noise surrounding you, because that’s what competition really is, noise.
I have five very simple things I tell myself, and subscribe to these days when thinking about competitors. Whether in business or when I fight:
1 – You Are Not Them
The first realization we have to make is that we are not our competitor. Simple, but hard, I can personally attest to that. There is always going to be room for competition, and if you’re in a hot market, there will always be new players. They’ll be creative, and tackle the market from different angles; most often it’s a gold-rush like experience.
Every person / organization has it’s own personality, something that makes them work or tick, these don’t come with a blueprint. Trying to be what you’re not will be evident, and not feel genuine. Your customers will feel it, your audience will find themselves scratching their heads.
When I fight, I rarely look up my competition. Why? So that I can plan to defend their attacks? Do we see the problem with that? I go into the fight with one thought, impose my will. Oh, they know my game? Perfect, even better, means I have to fight even harder. I focus on myself, I set the tone.
2 – What Makes You, You
If you’re building and doing things in response to a competitor, they’ve already won. They’ll always be a step ahead. Why do you do what you do?
Over the past year, my partner and I have put a tremendous amount of energy thinking through who we are, what we want, what makes us, us; that focus has been huge for us. We’ve made better decisions, decisions that are impactful both to the communities we support, our business and employees, our customers and non-customers, and more importantly, us as people.
What makes us, us you ask? Simple, we build things that work and we deliver value. Done, simple.
Everything we do, comes with two very simple questions:
Does it work?
Does it provide value?
3 – Focus On Your Path
I often tell people, the thing that differentiates us is not our ideas; it’s our ability to execute against those idea, and more importantly – survive the grind. What we don’t often talk about though, is the process form which those ideas do come from. Ideas in it of themselves are of little value without the context used to form them. The same applies when defining your path, if the path is not yours you’re highly unlikely to be vested. When was the last time you followed through on something you weren’t vested in?
I firmly believe that we all have insecurities when it comes to our own ideas and actions, there’s always that doubt in your mind – “Shit, I might screw this up…” “Crap, what if it doesn’t work…” anyone that tells you they don’t, is likely lying. The most confident are often the ones with the biggest insecurities, what separates them however is their ability to identify with it, keeping it from influencing or consuming them.
If you’re fully committed to what you’re doing, you know what has to be done, and what you seek from others is validation. That validation is for no other purpose than to silence your fears, learn to find that validation internally, with your team.
4 – It’s Not About First or Second
I believe one of the biggest mistakes we make as business owners, at least when trying to build sustainable businesses, is this desire to dominate a market. But can we blame ourselves? Everything is about growth, market penetration, customer domination!
They’re taking over the market… we’re losing the market share… how much market share do you control?
This line of thinking forces you to focus and pay attention to the wrong things. It’s only natural, if you’re going to enter a new space, look at what others are doing. They’re obviously ahead, let’s figure out what they’re doing, and do it that much better!
We spend more time trying to peacock with our competitors, boasting our awesomeness to our boards, and showing the world of our success[es] that we lose focus on what really matters.
5 – Let if Fuel You
While I don’t want it to consume you, I do want you to let it fuel you! I want you to use that competition as a validator that you’re onto something; because let’s face it, if you have no competition, then why do what you do? It either means you made a very bad choice, it’s an unrecognized market (which is actually pretty awesome), or you have no idea who your competitors really are (scary proposition).
If you’re a in a space with competitors let your competitiveness out. Winning is obviously very relative, but whatever the marker you define as success, use that to help achieve your goals.
Setting Realistic Expectations
None of this is easy. Yes, it’s easy to write, sounds simple, and in hindsight, history is always so clear. Yet, when you’re getting started it’s practically impossible to be rational. In fact, if I were to start a new company today, I’d likely get caught up in the same cycle again.
If you’re focusing on your competition, how are you focusing on yourself?
You want to be in a position where your competition is looking at you, wondering what you’re doing and chasing you, not the other way around. Your mind is a dangerous place, and it can play tricks on you. Every change feels new, innovative, better than anything you might have come up with.
Crap, why didn’t I do that first!!!! They introduced a new product, shit we need that too… Damn, a huge organization just entered my market, they’ll own it!!
These are real feelings, and always have the chance of becoming reality. This is true. What you don’t realize though is that your focus on it, it’s ability to consume you, is actually what makes it a reality… #justsaying