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Compete to Win

Love Your Competitors…They Are Keeping You in Business

Becoming number one is easier than remaining number one.

Dr. Thommie Burger

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Although most entrepreneurs dream of having a market all to themselves, it has been shown that you’re probably better off with having some kind of competition.

People usually think that with no competition the entire market for their product or service will be theirs. If nobody is competing in your space, it’s probably safe to say the market you are targeting is too small.

Entering a market that already has some competitors should not be overlooked. A market can NEVER be too crowded, as long as your product or service is unique and is not ‘just one of the same thing’.

Related: What Do I Need to Know to Open a Business Consulting Service?

The reality is competition is everywhere. No matter what business you’re in, you will benefit greatly from studying your competition. One of the most important aspects of running a successful business is knowing everything you can about your competition.

This includes everything from their marketing tactics to branding and also how well they treat their employees and run their business on a day to day basis.

When companies compete against each other, they set new standards for other companies to either match or beat. Knowing your competition should be an ongoing experience to make sure you know what there is to know about them.

Now that you have chosen to take off the blindfolds and realise healthy competition in the business world is a good thing, take a deep breath while we look at a few points on why it can only benefit you and your business in the long run:

1. Competition provides ideas you can adapt for your products or services and validates your idea 

Competition validates the market and the fact that there are most likely customers for your new product or service. You can learn from what your competitors have put in place to adjust your plan. You are also able to weigh in the pros and cons from the way they run their businesses, products and services.

“Competition is the spice of sports; but if you make spice the whole meal you’ll be sick – George Leonard”

2. It identifies your strengths and weaknesses

Your competition might just be the ones who points out your strengths and weaknesses. They may also help you focus and set your concentration on what you’re really good at. Your weaknesses help you become better, while your strength drives you harder to achieve more.

3. It’s also good for your employees

Your employees will always benefit from learning, for example how to deal with situations when your competitors have more customers than you do.

4. Competition helps you focus on what’s important

Without competition, it’s easy to lose focus on your core business and your more important customers and start expanding into areas that’s not the best for your business. It reminds you every now and then to focus on what’s important.

Being competitive forces you and your business to figure out how to be different than your competition. Competition will help you build a better business.

5. Consumers also benefit

Competition is not only good for your business, it’s good for consumers. When there is competition amongst brands, consumers get the opportunity to choose on which business they can spend their time, money and attention.

6. Competition will help you work smarter 

You have to be up to speed and on the ball at all times! You can’t afford to backslide or work sluggishly when you’re faced with stiff competition. When there’s competition, you must always be on your toes and always on the go! Failing to do this will give an opportunity to your competitors to push you out of the market.

7. Don’t forget about customer service

Face it, there isn’t enough time in a day to really stop and evaluate every customer, but you can still appreciate them and treat them right so that when the competition comes along they won’t be tempted to go anywhere else.

8. Competition will help you step out of your comfort zone competitor-analysis

Leaving your comfort zone will help you strive to beat the records of your competitors and also to try and be the best business in your target market. Strong competition can provide valuable market insight and keep your product or service strategies fresh.

9. It will help you identify potential threats 

You will be able to learn from other competitors what works and what doesn’t. Then you will decipher what strategies would be detrimental to your business.

Related: How Entrepreneurship should be Cultivated from a Young Age

10. Knowledge is power

When in competition, one of the ways to always come out on top is by continuous reading and researching about your product or service as well as what the competition is up to.

11. There is always room for development and improvement

While going through the exercise of keeping a closer eye on your competitors, you will most definitely gain more experience along the way, whether it be on how to better market your brand or how to keep that customer interested in coming back to you.

There is always something you can do better! Also remember to not focus too much on the competition because that can also be a bad thing. It can stifle creativity and keep you from focusing on the more important things in your business.

So now, stop being paranoid and scared of the competition, but rather take advantage of things you will come to learn about not only yourself, but also your product, service and business along the way!

“If the reason of your sleeplessness is competition, then you will make a successful businessman – Amit Kalantri”

Founder of JTB Consulting, a leading Business Plan Consultancy that provides practical, unique and affordable Business Consulting and Business Plan Solutions to entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and existing companies. Founder of Animazing, a Marketing Agency that designs unique animated videos; a communication and marketing medium clients use to deliver their messages in an effective, engaging and memorable way. Thommie is a Summa Cum Laude MBA Graduate and holds a PhD in Entrepreneurship and Business Management.

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Compete to Win

How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos

One wrong move and Netflix could have been nothing more than a footnote in the history of entertainment. But by staying ahead of the curve and embracing disruption, the company is threatening some very entrenched competitors.

GG van Rooyen

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Attendees of the annual Cannes Film Festival are typically not afraid to be vocal in their dislike of a new film — booing and hissing are both surprisingly common — but the recent film Okja possibly set some sort of record. The crowd was booing and jeering before the film had even properly begun. In fact, all it took was the name of the studio behind the film: Netflix.

Why the animosity? Netflix is disrupting the film industry, and the traditionalists aren’t happy. After debuting at Cannes, Okja wasn’t released in cinemas. No, instead it was released right to Netflix, free to stream as long as you have an account.

Of course, few would have guessed a few years ago that Netflix would ever get into the business of making its own television shows and movies. According to industry lore, entrepreneur Reed Hastings launched Netflix because he was annoyed with the exorbitant late fees of video/DVD store Blockbuster.

Instead of having to return a movie once you’ve watched it, he conceived of a business that would ship DVDs right to your door through the mail.

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

It was a clever idea, but not one that seemed terribly disruptive. The whole process could be a bit of a hassle, and it required you to schedule your entertainment well ahead of time. Blockbuster even had a chance to buy Netflix, but decided that it wasn’t worth it.

The rise of streaming

Even as Netflix was hitting its stride in the early-2000s, the tide was already turning. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Internet was going to be an incredibly disruptive force, but many companies failed to notice. Or, if they did notice, they failed to take adequate action.

By 2007, the potential of streaming TV shows, films, music and books online was clear, but the DVD business was still doing well. However, Netflix decided to prepare for the future (and disrupt its own operations) by launching a streaming service. It did this by going to the traditional movie studios and television networks, and asking to licence their old content.

In the view of these studios and networks, old pieces of entertainment had run their course, so they were pleased with the new revenue stream.

This brings us back to Okja. Netflix has been creating its own content for the last few years because it realised that studios and networks would eventually catch on. At some point, they would understand that they were giving Netflix the ammunition needed to disrupt the industry. Why have Netflix stream your content if you could create your own streaming service?

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Hastings said of one of the most popular American cable channels back in 2013.

In a mere 20 years, Netflix has gone from a low-tech operation that sends DVDs through the mail to one that not only streams content online, but is also producing its own content — content from some of the most respected actors, producers and directors in the world. All of this is costing Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars, and it remains to be seen if this strategy will ultimately pay off, but betting against Netflix is risky.

Related: How To Make Money Investing, According To Ashton Kutcher

Netflix has shown itself to be uniquely capable in drastically shifting its business model. Here is how Hastings explains it: “Short-term optimisation about being efficient is the death of long-term success and innovation. Building Netflix, we created a company that tolerated some short-term chaos, and we manage right at the edge of chaos. The value of that is keeping and stimulating the amazing thinkers, so when the market shifts, like DVD to streaming, or licence to original content, we have in Netflix all kinds of original thinkers, and that is the long-term optimisation that all of us in organisations want.”

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Compete to Win

SME Leaders: How You Can Manage Growth

Fresh growth is all around us this Spring – find out how you can powerfully manage growth as you provide leadership to your SME.

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In the transition from start-up to scale-up, a critical factor for a growing business is the quality and strength of its leadership team.

Learning to trust and empower staff is a crucial step for SME leaders who wants to grow their business upwards.

As a business grows, one of the biggest challenges for the business founder and leader is the hand-over of an idea from the founder to the people who work there, The brand moves from being one person’s idea to being the professional focus of a whole group of people.

Without effective leadership, small businesses will be held back, more than three-quarters of SMEs provide no leadership development for their staff. What does this mean for you?

Related: We Went up Against A Highly Regulated, Entrenched Industry. Here Are 4 Tips For Getting Your Foot In The Door

If you lead your business with vision and clarity, you set yourself apart from your competition. Here’s how.

Lead the pack

A growing business creates more work than a leader can handle alone.

As the team grows, founders often react by micromanaging the details of their business. In trying to take on everyone else’s job, the founder often leaves the most critical position vacant: strategist and vision-setting.

Learn to trust and empower others in the organisation and you will find you have room to innovate, which is critical for business growth.

Related: What I Learned About Dating That Will Transform Any Business

Steady the ship

An effective leader will also engage others in the business to embrace and adapt to change as growth continues.

  1. Vision: First, plot the course for where the business should go in the short term, and the long term.
  2. Change: Understand what needs to be put in place to grow the business. You might need to source better business operating systems to streamline this growth, or change a few internal business processes, or rethink how you calculate your hourly rates.
  3. People: Growth equals change, and change equals pain, so if you want growth, budget for pain. Understand that you will need to guide and coach the staff into changing their mindset and adapting to these growth changes.

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Compete to Win

We Went up Against A Highly Regulated, Entrenched Industry. Here Are 4 Tips For Getting Your Foot In The Door

Focus on creating value, not disruption.

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Multibillion-dollar legacy industries don’t make it easy for entrepreneurs to step in and create value. There are huge barriers to entry – licensing, pricing, regulations, and cultural/brand significance – that come with being around for a century or more.

However, those barriers shouldn’t stop you from innovating.

Take the utility sector for example, which is perhaps most frightening of all: A trillion-dollar taxpayer subsidized network of poles and wires set up through franchised municipal monopolies. Otherwise known as, our power and energy industry. It’s a mouthful of protection, and as a result, utilities make for a great investment (just ask Warren Buffet), since the likelihood of disruption is tough to even think about. To most reasonable entrepreneurs, the regulated utility sector, similar to the financial and healthcare industries, is tantamount to a “NO TRESPASSING” sign.

But, that is exactly what makes the effort so worthwhile. If you can successfully work with or alongside a monolith industry and produce value, instead of being focused on “disruption,” you’ll be able to achieve massive results.

When we first started trying to provide consumers cleaner and better energy options, getting to market proved difficult as we were trying to break into a utility-customer relationship (paying a power bill) that hasn’t really changed for the last half-century. But, with a clear mission in mind and the understanding that we would have to work in unison with utility providers, we were able to start making our mark.

Related: How to Create a Winning Mindset, to Crush the Competition

Here are a few tips for getting your foot in the door:

1Create value, not disruption

There are some industries where the Silicon Valley catchphrase “disruption” falls flat. Some industries just aren’t meant to be disrupted in the way that people in the tech community are used to. Nearly our entire economy depends on the power grid and we couldn’t come in and totally upheave that. When you’re going after a big industry, you first need to provide value to the customer or the provider. 

Show instead of tell that you have a strong customer base and that people need what you’re offering. And build relationships – working together with the big players in the space will get you much faster and better results for your company and your customers.

2Focus on the customer experience

When you’re a startup, you already have the advantage of being years ahead in your digital experience compared to traditional companies in your space. Own that and hone in on it to make it the best customer experience possible. We looked across sectors to bring modern design, UX and data elements to the home energy experience.

Traditional companies aren’t necessarily thinking that way, and you’ll win people over by offering self-service customer tools, easy payment options and notifications they actually understand. Good communication with your customers goes a long way.

3Start small, build toward the vision

A lot of start-ups begin with very lofty goals – disrupting whole industries and changing the entire way a process is done. We certainly had a broad vision to be the trusted home energy advisor for everything from solar to batteries. But, you’ll never be able to achieve anything if you try to tackle everything all at once in a highly regulated and old-fashioned industry. Instead, to get started, focus on one thing.

For us, it was offering clean energy via renewable energy certificates (REC). By starting small, you’ll be able to learn about and understand the space you’re going into, and will be able to see if there’s a market for what you’re offering. As you learn, you can slowly expand step by step and tackle more complex products in the industry.

Related: Why Flame-Grilled Chicken Franchise Galito’s Opened Up Shop Right Next To The Competition

4Use best practices from other innovative industries.

No industry has a monopoly on good ideas, and the boom in direct-to-consumer brands across apparel, food, finance and healthcare provides a great roadmap for how to build a modern customer experience. Look to other industries that have been there and done it. For example, Mint.com has created an innovation through the consumer interface – in their case to manage finances – while leaving the existing banking and credit card infrastructure in place.

While the thought of breaking into an established industry is definitely intimidating, in today’s entrepreneurial environment it is definitely possible and innovation is desperately needed. Success depends on the ability to shed your typical idea of disruption, and stay patient and persistent.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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