Don't Look Back

In running, as in business, looking behind you to see what your competition is doing only slows you down. Worrying excessively about your competition distracts you from the job at hand — doing your best for your customers. After all, if you are focusing on the customers' wants and needs, then you don't need to worry about the competition overtaking you. However, if you look behind you to see what your competition is doing, you risk slowing down and having them overtake you.

Obsessing about your competition is wasteful. Time, manpower and money are finite. Any effort you expend focusing on the competition means you're wasting valuable energy. You should only be competing against yourself — playing the best game you can by serving your customers right. So ask yourself, "How can I make my customers so satisfied that the competition isn't even an issue?" Then take action.

Focus on how you do business, determine if you are the best solution for your customers' problems, and then go out of your way to meet their needs. When you implement the following tips, you'll be able to confidently compete against only yourself and stop playing the competition's game.

1. Focus on your customers' needs and wants.

Your customers should be your top priority. With new customers, you need to work to get them on board; with your existing customers, you need to make sure they stay with you. If your current customers are not happy with you, they'll leave. Ask them how you're doing. Listen to their input. They already know you and love you, and they will be glad to tell you what they need from you. Your job is to meet those needs.

2. Assess your own resources and strengths.

Don't worry about who else is interested in your customers. Focus only on why yours is the best company to solve your customers' problems. Assess your strengths to determine why your customers love you. Keep doing it. If you do what you do best, you will keep your customers happy.

3. Differentiate with the customers' best interests at heart.

Tell your customers how you are different — how you are quicker, better, easier or more cost-effective to do business with. This is your opportunity to shine — don't be modest. Here is a scenario where you do need to know enough about your competition to differentiate yourself. Once you have that information, you have the opportunity to show or tell your customers all those things that are different about you.

4. Map it out.

Make a diagram that illustrates your customers' needs and wants. Also list your resources. Then record how you meet your customers' needs better and faster. Now you know exactly what your role is and who your ideal customers are.

Your diagram will show you the solution to what your customers are looking for. You may find one or two things they want or need that you can't satisfy. Don't panic: This puts you in the perfect position to provide a needed solution. If you have a customer need you can't meet, go to your competition and say, "I need you to help me with this customer for this particular item. I need you to develop one small piece of what this customer needs." And you bring the business to them because they do it best. You are still focusing on your customer, while using your competition to your advantage.

5. Follow the map.

You won't get distracted by what else — or who else — you're tempted to chase. You are now focusing on your core clients and that's how you become successful. Your success happens when you repeat the process time after time after time. You're focused on the customer and what they want, not on worrying about what the competition might introduce next.

If you worry about your competition, you'll start second-guessing yourself and changing the way you do business. You won't be satisfying that customer; instead, you'll be trying to one-up your competition and spend money on doing fancy stuff rather than the basic stuff that makes your client happy. When that happens, you start losing business and you may lose a customer. And you lose it to the very competition you've spent so much time looking over your shoulder at.


Worrying about your competition is natural. You need to have some idea of what your competition is doing, but it shouldn't be anywhere near your top business focus. Don't let your competition infiltrate your thinking. You are playing your own game, not your competition's. If you can consistently meet your customers' needs, you will be able to stop wasting valuable time and money trying to beat your competition. Remember, you are in business for your customers, not your competition.

Content Library
Dig through our best stories from the magazine, all sorted by category for easy surfing.
Read More
Content Library
Buyer's Guide
Find manufacturers and suppliers in the most extensive searchable database in the industry.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide