Competition or colleagues?

September 15, 2012

Business, Career and employment

Even the most secure entrepreneurs occasionally find themselves flinching when they meet a competitor at a networking event, quickly scanning the room to see how they can make the most connections first. It’s human nature.

by Laura Orsini — 

In spite of the popularity of movies like The Secret and our growing understanding of the law of attraction, many business owners still get caught up in the idea of “smashing the competition.” For some, it’s just that old competitive spirit at work — the inner drive to win at any cost. Competition scares others, however, because they worry that their rivals will take business away from them.

The law of attraction teaches us, the only things that can be taken from us are those that are not already ours. To fear such loss is to live and work from a “lack” perspective. When we forget the universe’s abundance, we can lose our way and become negatively concerned about what our competition is doing.

Almost invariably, someone else will build the same widget or offer a service similar to yours. Even the most secure entrepreneurs occasionally find themselves flinching when they meet a competitor at a networking event, quickly scanning the room to see how they can make the most connections first. It’s human nature. At such times, it is helpful to remember that we live in an abundant universe; there is plenty for everyone; and the right clients will be attracted to us.

Do you know the others in your industry?

Sometimes we prefer to pretend the competition doesn’t even exist. This can be a good strategy, as it may be a sign of our developing confidence. However, it can also be limiting, because in virtually every industry, someone else also does what you do. It’s in your best interest to know as much about them as possible.

For one thing, even if you live in a very large city, chances are that if you remain in your industry for any duration, you will come across others in the same field, whether at networking functions, at industry events or via word of mouth from your clients.

Rather than having a meltdown when you learn about another person in your industry, you could capitalize on that knowledge in several ways:

• Know how you’re similar. Industry standards exist for virtually every business. All window washers clean glass. All security firms offer their clients protection. All pilots fly planes. Learning the ways you compare and stand up against the others in your industry will enable you to set a benchmark both for your prospective clients, and internally.

• Know how you’re different. Even large corporate franchises are different, from one owner to the next or one location to another. Love the Denny’s on Main Street but won’t set foot in the Broadway location? Why is that? Knowing how you differ from others in your industry will help you tailor your marketing efforts and attract your perfect clients. Differences can range from the number of staff to price; focus on quality versus speed of delivery; your menu of services; having a brick-and-mortar shop or relying exclusively on e-commerce; etc.

• Know their pricing structure. Even if you make it a practice not to compete on price (highly suggested!), the question of your costs in comparison to others will likely arise. You cannot know how you compare to others in your industry if you don’t know what they charge. You alone will decide how to handle the inevitable price comparison questions — but you will be completely unprepared to do so if you don’t even know what others are charging. Likewise, knowing the standards for your industry can help you determine where to set your prices in the first place.

• Know where your niches overlap, and where they divide. No savvy business owner would dream of being all things to all people. Crafting a niche is one of the fastest paths to success. When it comes to the others in your industry, you should know how your niche markets compare. All professional organizers help their clients create efficiency; however, some work only with individuals, some work only with companies and some work only with data and filing systems. This information also will help with your marketing collateral. Additionally, it enables you to practice decorum and avoid being seen as a poacher when it comes to fishing in the same pond as your colleagues.

• Explore a referral system. Once you’ve determined your niche, you may or may not be willing to work with clients outside that niche. Only you can decide — but if you decide to work exclusively within your niche, what will you tell the clients you turn away? If you’re smart, you will have set up a referral system with another professional in your industry whose niche matches that client’s needs. This will make you a hero to the prospect, create goodwill with the “competition” and possibly add a little extra padding to your wallet.

• Have backup for when you get busy. So your business is thriving —  but do you have a plan in place for the time you get so busy that delivery becomes challenging? Too many clients is a good problem to have — unless you begin to lose them because you cannot meet their demands. Planning ahead for such a scenario is critical. In this case, it becomes essential to know others in your industry so you can funnel overflow business to them. A backup provider will also allow you to close up shop every once in a while to take that necessary and well-deserved vacation.

Competition or colleagues?

It’s human to stress just a little when you’re a mortgage broker and the guy who does his introduction just ahead of you at a mixer announces he’s from Great Central Mortgage. Who wouldn’t freeze? But instead of getting angry, quiet, or trying to bluster past him with your cleverness and cacophony, take a deep breath and know that those who are meant to connect with you will — just as they would have if Mr. Great Central were not there.

When we can view others in our industry as colleagues, rather than as competitors, we begin to make progress in allowing the universe to provide for us. In viewing them as colleagues, we are much more likely to create partnerships than to look for reasons to escalate the divide.

 

Laura Orsini is a professional editor, writer and marketing advisor who works primarily with self-publishing authors. www.wordsmadeeasy.com, Laura@wordsmadeeasy.com or 602-518-5376.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 5, October/November 2007.

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