Keeping up with the competition.
Forget about your own business strategies for a moment. How well do you keep tabs on your competitors' moves? If you're like most entrepreneurs, you probably have a thing or two to learn: According to a recent study, most executives performed poorly when asked to assess their competition's motives and objectives.
The survey, conducted by Bruce Clark of the Anderson School of Management at University of California, Los Angeles, and David B. Montgomery, Sebastian S. Kresge professor of marketing strategy at Stanford Business School, placed participants on teams and asked them to discuss their tactics for various business scenarios and whether they were attacking or reacting to competitors.
Frequently, participants misread their opponents' strategies. About 65 percent saw reactions that didn't occur. Worse, about 79 percent didn't even notice a competitor had taken action--a blind spot experts say can cause considerable damage to your business. "If a competitor makes a move and you don't notice, it can sneak up on you, take your market, even steal your customers," says Montgomery.
How to improve your forecasting skills? Try role-playing to put yourself in your competitors' shoes, analyzing successful strategies rivals are likely to repeat, or using the Internet to investigate other companies' strategies, goals and organizational structure. Feeling a little neurotic? Don't worry. Says Montgomery, "Being suspicious and paranoid about [competition] gets your company focused and keeps you sharp."