Written In Stone

II. Know your competition

If you think you won't have any competition, you're fooling yourself. There's always someone, somewhere, who provides the same or similar products and services. Businesses that take too much comfort in being the only game in town run into big trouble very quickly. The key to success? Keeping an edge by providing customers with better, faster or less expensive products and services than other businesses.

Take a look at your key competitors. Objectively compare your ideas for running your business to the way they run theirs. Are there things they do better than others? How are they promoting themselves? Does it seem to be working? Watch them closely--you might learn from their trials and errors.

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the July 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Written In Stone.

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