How to Avoid the Competition Trap

“The competitor to be feared is the one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.” – Henry Ford

Business is all about competition, but the question you need to ask yourself is:

Who are you watching?

Are you constantly looking to improve your business for your customers’ sake? Or are you simply trying to keep up with your industry competitors?

You start your business because you have an amazing idea. Ideally, one that solves a particular problem for your customer. Even better if it solves a problem they didn’t even know they had! As in, “Who knew I’d want to read books without flipping actual pages?”

Pretty soon you’re cooking along and then WHAM! Another company comes along claiming to solve the same problem, but even better. “Papercut-free reading! Guaranteed!”

And before you know it, the race begins.

Keeping up with the competition

Keeping up with the competition isn’t the same as innovating. Why? Because you’re letting someone else drive your behavior.

Instead of focusing on your own ideas, you’re focused on what someone else is doing. You’re more tuned into your competitors than your customers. You’re looking sideways (or backwards) instead of looking ahead. 

How do you think about your competition? Do you worry about them constantly, wondering what they’re up to? Are you freaking out about the idea that they might secure that next new solution, employee, feature, or patent before you can?

Of course you need to know who your competitors are and have some idea of what they are doing. But if you’re obsessing over those things, you’re handing control of your own business to them.

What’s an innovator to do? Or not to do?

You have two basic choices here:

  • You can run toward success
  • You can run away from your competitors

One of these responses is based on vision. The other is based primarily on fear.

If you have a strong company vision with a team you trust, and you’ve empowered them to make great things happen, then you’re actively running toward something.

If your everyday focus is on how to one-up that other business, you’re not focused on building a better company. You’re still running your business, but you’re not running toward something new and exciting. You’re merely running away from the competition. You’re running in fear.

Running away from things isn’t always bad. If there’s a rabid raccoon after you, run for the hills. Or the garage.

But running from your competitors can spark some unhealthy business practices:

  • Thinking about yourself or your competitor instead of your clients
  • Focusing on their company strategy instead of coming up with your own
  • Worrying about today instead of planning for your company vision and future

This limited, short term thinking will result in a reactionary business model. No longer will you be innovating. You will merely be responding to the innovations of others. And your customers will notice.

Companies that lead based on fear can easily find themselves in exactly the scenario they were trying so hard to avoid— being beat-out by the competition.

Don’t look back

You can’t control what your competition is doing. But you can control what you are doing.

Instead of catering to the competition, cater to those who will carry you forward to success: your customers, clients, and employees. Your greatest competitive advantage doesn’t come from playing catch-up. It comes from believing in your vision and empowering your team to give your customers what they want.

Funnel your thoughts, energies, and resources into what you’re offering your clients and the experience you’re giving them after they’ve chosen you. This is what will make your business rise to the top.

Photo by Vasilyev Alexandr

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