08.01.18

Relish the Competition or Fear Them?

KARL R. LAPAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE NIIC

Are you afraid of the competition, or do they make you better? Fear is not a productive emotion in business (or in life, really.) Did you know your competition could be an asset? Yes, as Forbes argues, it’s good for business! Let me discuss competition on two levels: an entrepreneur or business builder looking to launch a new product or solution and an established company looking to regain traction in one or more of its business segments.

For the new upstart venture, I always get concerned with business builders and entrepreneurs who say their product is so novel, they don’t have any competition. Saying you have no competition is not necessarily a good thing and is a red flag. Thinking you have the luxury of time, money and resources to build a market from scratch is bunk. Find some competitors if you don’t think you have any.

In existing organization’s and especially in their strategic planning process, there is an intense preoccupation with the competitors. The best advice I have received is ignore them but learn from them. Watch their missteps, false promises, execution failures and be smarter, faster and different. Management Strategist and Guru Dr. Michael Porter reminds us that strategy is not about being better (in fact, being the best isn’t a strategy) but being different. He goes on to say, “Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.” This requires us to be astute resource allocators, place calculated bets, make tough trade-offs and ensure a smart fit and good alignment with your venture’s core competencies.

So, I think we’d all benefit from pondering the following when evaluating the competitive landscape by just asking:

  • How can we be better at what we do? This is operational effectiveness.
  • How can we be different/do something different — that no one else is doing? This is at the heart of a strong and enduring strategy.

Once you have come to terms with your strategic approach, you can spend the majority of your time focused on executing your plan and aligning your resources to deliver the value that attracts and retains customers for life.

The lesson here? Don’t be afraid of competition. Embrace it with open arms, but choose to be different and focus on unique value-creating activities that reflect your brand and your core purpose (and ignore their noise!)

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