Researching the competition is necessary because you need to know what businesses in your field are doing and see how you measure up, right? Everyone needs to enter into a little competitor analysis from time to time just to stay up on your game. Is that true?
Some sources suggest spying on the competition — driving by their location, shopping their store or calling “in cognito”. You’ve gotta know what they are up to, those conniving business owners!
Yes, I think it’s a good idea to know what other people are doing in your field but keeping a file on them starts to seem a little weird. Being aware of your colleagues can inspire new ideas and even build your confidence. It can help you figure out how you want to position yourself in the marketplace and set yourself apart.
The downside: It seems like everyone has experienced the “stomach drop” or that ZING of adrenaline at finding yourself one up or one down from someone else. Though comparing can be helpful, it can also land you in your own Alice’s Wonderland. Depending on which arbitrary measurements you have set up, you may feel like a tiny defeated bug or a mighty giant. As Alice said, “Being so many sizes in a day is very confusing.” Plus, it’s bad for your adrenal glands.
This reminds me of an incident I had at the pool recently…
I was doing my lap swim at the gym and found myself speeding up to compete with the woman in the next lane. She didn’t know it but we were racing. I gave it a good fight, but this girl had a mean front crawl. She touched the wall before I did and without a care did her fancy flip turn and continued swimming. I felt silly. She was just doing her thing and I was trying to compete with her. A lap later, I complimented her stroke and asked her for some pointers. She was super nice—not the mega-snob I had imagined her to be. She took several minutes to watch me swim and dissect my stroke, offered great feedback and said I could stop her any time for help. I went back to swimming at my own pace, swallowed a lot less water and knew I had an ally in the pool.
The small business world is changing; we are seeing a shift from compete to collaborate, from conquer to connect. That’s a good thing. There is plenty of business to go around and we can all help to boost each others’ reputations and feel a little less alone. I challenge you: next time you find yourself playing comparison games, stop comparing and connect. Send an email telling that person what you admire about them. Ask them to coffee. Brainstorm ways to support each other. Connecting and building relationships will build your business a lot faster than slumping down in your chair, lurking with binoculars and a bag of Doritos.
© 2010, Karrie Kohlhaas. All rights reserved.