I learn by embracing people that you could call my ‘competition.’ I treat them as mentors, I learn from their experience, I ask them questions.
I promote them, I try to find ways to collaborate, to build something together that neither could do alone. I try to understand their goals, and find ways to help, even if it’s just a simple ReTweet.
“Competition” is no longer easy to define. We are really only competing with ourselves.
Measuring yourself against others is not always the best way: do you want to be the team that is poorly run, with fuzzy goals and total dysfunction – BUT – you outperformed your even more pathetic competition by 15%. Does that make it okay to focus on “beating the competition?”
To be the best you can be – in your career and in your business – consider redefining where you end and where your competition begins.
Embrace the people who have gone down the same road you are going down. There is so much that brings you together:
- They have the same passion as you. That’s rare and powerful – take them out for a coffee and chat about it.
- They have failed at things you might be trying to do. Learn from that. Why didn’t it work. What would they do differently?
- They succeeded at things you might be trying to do. What part of that strategy was responsible for it’s success? What part was wasted effort. How could that success be extended even further?
- There is so much more under the surface. Their existing products only tell you where they were and where they are – not where they hope to go. The real story is often masked – and the real story is often where the lessons are.
Here are some ways you can begin working WITH your competition, instead of against them:
Redefine Who the Competition Is
Be open about who you define as your competition. If you sell widgets for lefties, you don’t have to JUST focus on other companies that do that. Focus on other who serve the same market as you: others who serve different products for lefties; Others who sell widgets to other segments of the market; Companies who serve entirely different markets with different products, but share a similar product, company structure, sales approach, or business philosophy.
I find that people are often trounced by those who they didn’t even consider their competition. They were too busy looking elsewhere, narrowly defining their industry and the options their audience have.
Humanize the Competition
Stop treating the competition as a massive “them.” That competitor is a group of actual people who care passionately about your industry and are probably nice, down to earth folks.
Reach Out on a Personal Level
Don’t just lurk – connect. Take someone out for lunch or breakfast. This is not to pump them for information, but to make a powerful connection and try to find mutual goals. Business is done because of relationships. Create them.
Get Out of Your Bubble
Find ways to collaborate – officially or unofficially. On a professional or more personal level. Too many people drive their careers and businesses into a bubble – where all of their connections existing within a single company and their expertise on a single product. Expand beyond those boundaries. It will serve your career well in the long run, and will open up your business to new avenues.
Introduce people to each other across businesses. Put one competitor in touch with another. Put someone else in your company in touch with a competitor. Get partners and industry organizations involved.