How do you measure up as a business owner?
How do you measure up as a leader?
How does your business stack up?
People mostly gauge such things by looking externally, not internally. We look around at other people and other businesses. Then we mentally (mostly emotionally) compare ourselves and our business. We don’t feel so good afterward.
This is especially personal when we look at direct competitors. And some of us view everybody and everything as a competitor. Years ago I learned that the zero-sum game I was taught when I was young…is wrong. It’s a major distraction to becoming our best.
But today’s title isn’t quite 100% accurate. There’s often much to learn from the competition, but it’s not what you think. It’s the innovation in looking at industries and companies with a dedication to figure out how to best fix their problems. But when we do that, are we really looking at the competition or are we looking at how an industry or company can better serve customers?
It’s a powerful distraction – fixating on the competition. It leads to excuse-making, copy-cat execution and becoming average. It robs businesses of bravery and leadership.
Unless you’re looking at the competition to architect how you’re going to beat their brains in. But as you may or may not know, I’m a big fan of Jack Welch and his strategic planning.
“Our strategic plan is to ask, ‘What can the competition do in the next 18 months to nail us to the wall?’ Then we ask, ‘What can we do in the next 18 months to nail them to the wall?'”
I’m a kid from the 70’s so I was taught to be competitive and have a strong desire to bury the competition. Working in retail as a teenager though quickly taught me there was a much better way and I admit I’m a product of my experience. I learned that trying to figure out how to best the competition was a waste of time with shoppers. They didn’t care about the competition. They only cared about what they most wanted. Very quickly I realized the futility of thinking about the other stereo shops in town. Instead, I learned to pay close attention to the shoppers. I made sure to listen carefully, watch their body language and pay attention to shopper behavior. My goal was to dazzle every shopper so they’d become a customer. Then I wanted to make the customer so happy they’d become a client (a repeat customer).
By the time I was operating a multi-million dollar retail company it was well ingrained in my business DNA…
Don’t take your eyes or ears off the customer!
There’s one simple reason why it works. It’s not limiting.
Fixate on the competition and you’re instantly limiting your operation. You’ll get stuck in industry standards and traditional thinking.
Fixate on the customer and you’re free to think beyond anything ever done in your industry. All the rules get tossed out when you concentrate on the customer.
There’s another big reason worth mentioning though. Your competition isn’t paying your bills. Customers are. By thinking and looking at the competition you surrender yourself to become their servant. They’re not who you’re serving! So why look at them?
Lastly, let me encourage you to embrace quantum-leap thinking. When you look at the competition you avoid quantum-leap thinking. Instead, you tend to dwell on incremental thinking. Being just a little bit better than the competition is comforting when you’re focused on them. That’s boring. For you and for all your employees. I’ve never found a 3% improvement a very effective battle cry for the troops. But most everybody can get behind doing something nobody else may be doing or doing something most others think impossible.
Quantum-leap thinking is possible when you continue to focus on the customer, not the competition. Live and die by the questions, “What can we do to make ourselves remarkable to the customer?” And, “How can we dazzle the customer?”
Be ordinary by looking at the competition.
Be remarkable by looking at the customer.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!