It’s hard not to compare yourself to others. Whether it’s comparing yourself to your friends surfing in Bali while you’re sitting at your desk. Or comparing your startup with another competitor. Wherever you go, there is someone who will probably be slighter better than you. But maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
Competition is great. Imagine if it was always smooth sailing and you were always just the best at everything. Why would you need to improve? It would be kinda boring. Imagine if Charlie never had to fake the goalie with a triple-deke to win the state championship in Mighty Ducks – imagine if they had just won 5 nill. What lessons would we have learned? When would they have played Queen?
Anyway, so what do Mighty Ducks have to do with business and startups? Nothing, really. It’s just one helluva film. But I guess it does show you that competition is good, it makes you a better person, a better problem solver and it makes for a way better storyline.
Unless you are in a very specific niche, you will likely have some form of a direct or indirect competitor. An entity which could potentially replace you and what you are doing – especially in fast-paced tech environments and competitive markets. And when your competitors have bigger budgets, fancy marketing strategies, a better website and a CEO who can bench press more than you, it can be disheartening. But when you start focusing on what your competitors are doing, you lose sight of what is really important, your customers, your product and your service.
“Competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly renders people complacent and satisfied with mediocrity.” — Nancy Pearcy, author
Ignorance isn’t bliss.
Comparing yourself to others will cause you to devalue what you are currently doing and over-value what you are comparing too. It sucks. It can feel like you’re running a marathon in flippers while your competitors are riding one of those electric scooter things. It doesn’t mean you should ignore those around you and focus solely on what you are doing. Ignorance is bliss but ignorance is regressive. And regressive businesses fail.
“Whether it’s Google or Apple or free software, we’ve got some fantastic competitors and it keeps us on our toes.” — Bill Gates
Your competitors are growing faster than you? Great!
Growing slower than your competitors means that you can adapt to market feedback. You can see what your customers need and how your competitors are either solving that need or not. If your competitors are growing, it means that there are customers who need your (and your competitors) product. Yes, it’s important to innovate and take the innovation lead on ideas. But it’s also important to understand your market and not make the same mistakes as your competitors. Customers aren’t married to a specific brand or product. Whoever offers a better solution, customers will jump ship.
“You’ve got to keep reinventing. You’ll have new competitors. You’ll have new customers all around you.” — Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO
The bottom line = solve problems
In 2000, Yahoo provided 56% of all search engine searches. Google served less than 1%. But Google knew the problem. Yahoo’s searches failed to serve the best results for users. So Google created a better algorithm. By 2002, Google referred 31.8% of all searches and by 2011 they had 56% of market share while Yahoo had 16.1%.
TLDR: Key Take-aways.
- Don’t compare yourself to others but don’t ignore them
- Focus on your customers and users
- Provide new solutions to problems that your competitors haven’t realised.
- Comparison kills creativity but only if you let it
Feature Image by Ouch!