Posted by Mark Richards
When you’re an entrepreneur, you should be willing to listen to other people. Any time you can pick up a nugget of wisdom that can help you improve your product, increase sales, or manage your business more effectively, you should grab on to it with both hands. It doesn’t matter where the ideas come from, as long as they work.
Unfortunately, not everything that you hear is worth taking to heart. Among entrepreneurs and business owners, there is as much narrow-mindedness and bad advice as you can find in any casino.
Perhaps you’ve heard
One piece of advice I have frequently seen offered is that you need to “Beat the competition!” Now, the sentiment is in the right place. Most successful businesses aren’t just good, they’re better. The best hardware store in your city is better than all the rest. It may be price or selection. It may just be the fact that the employees there are knowledgeable and helpful. Whatever the reason, the best hardwood store edges out the others by being better.
However, the problem with advice as generic as “Beat the competition,” comes from its vagueness. It doesn’t give any practical suggestions as to how you can become better. And who is “the competition,” anyway?
The answer seems easy enough. Whoever can reasonably take away from your base of paying customers is probably your competition. For hardware shops, the competition is hardware shops, and for tailors, the competition is tailors, right?
You’re competing against Walt Disney
When you are behind the scenes, it is easy to focus on the numbers. Revenue, payroll, profit margins – managing these is what keeps your business afloat, after all. On one hand, this is true. The finances must be in order for you to succeed. But the real supporter of your business is the customer, and the customer views the competition in a much different way than you do.
While you compare your business to other businesses within your industry, your customer compares it to every other business with which he has ever bought or sold anything. That’s an entirely different perspective. Looking through that lens, the competition for your hardware store isn’t just Harry’s Hammers & Nails. Your competition is Amazon. It’s Apple. It’s Disney.
Comparing apples to apples
This doesn’t mean that your business is doomed. In fact, you can feel relieved to know how many different kinds of businesses thrive in spite of their mutual competition.
What it does mean is that you shouldn’t limit the way that you view your business. If your customers are remembering their best and worst business interactions without regard for industry, then it is narrow minded to compare your business with similar businesses.
If you’re going to “beat the competition,” you need to deliver something impeccable.
Bringing it full circle
The fact that your business is in neck-deep in competitors isn’t all bad, however. You may actually be able to benefit from this by broadening your focus. Instead of considering only hammers, you can instead focus on something that can be directly compared across all industries: experience.
While you’re unlikely to best Apple with screwdrivers and penny nails, you can still take something away from them. Whether it is the simplicity of their name and logo or the way that they create their bran, you can probably learn something if you look hard enough.
And, like I said at the beginning, any time you can pick up a nugget, you should do it – especially if it will help you against your competition.Read More