Right now, do you find yourself in the thick of competition, with everyone elbowing each other and scrambling to be the front runner?

While you may wish your competition would just go away already, having them is actually good for business.

Competition forces you to give your best. Having that challenger right on your heels pushes you to run faster, work harder and think deeper. You can also learn plenty from the successes and failures of a worthy adversary. Plus, competition just makes the game more interesting and a whole lot more fun.

So don’t be afraid of competition -- just learn to deal with it in an advantageous way. 

Here are a few pointers:

1. Don’t be a copycat. I started my payroll-software company Patriot Software with the full knowledge that there were other more well-established competitors already in the field. Instead of jumping on whatever trend they were touting, I went down my own path. I had my own ideas and wanted to develop software based on my own experiences as a small-business owner.  We followed our own path when developing software that a small business owner could easily use.

Your competition may have a bigger budget and hundreds of employees, but don’t dwell on that. They don't have your passion or your know-how. They have nothing on your experience and the lessons you’ve learned. Just focus on your competitive advantage -- your secret sauce.

Related: Want to Stand Out From the Crowd? Know Your Unique Value Proposition.

2. Ignore the competition (for the most part). In the ‘90s, a rival company created a product that was similar to ours. I wasn’t concerned, because we were a leader in our particular niche. I ignored them, assuming my customers would clearly see the difference in quality.

However, when we started losing business to the competitor, we discovered their product actually looked better than ours. We freshened up the appearance of our product and stepped up our marketing efforts, allowing us to once again get ahead. That situation taught us an important lesson: We ignored the competition at our own peril, and it was nearly disastrous for our business.

3. Don’t underestimate the competition. Competitors may come in different shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common -- they all want to beat you.

You may lose sleep over bigger competitors with their impressive cash flow, customer base and power, but smaller competitors can actually pose a bigger threat. Large companies can get tripped up in their own bureaucracy, but startups are nimble, can move fast and operate under the radar. Since their survival is on the line, they may take big risks and cut corners. Don’t underestimate your competitors, especially the little guys.

Related: Is Competition a Catalyst for Innovation?

4. Don’t play dirty. There’s no reason we can’t get along. Competing businesses can actually co-exist within a community and even cooperate on occasion. 

Even when a competitor pulls a dirty trick, like stealing your customer list, don’t retaliate. If your competitor is willing to stoop that low, chances are that customer service is not their top priority. Your customers will come back once they realize their mistake. Just take the high road with competitors.

In business, you can’t make the competition disappear completely, but that’s alright. Accept the challenge -- you will have a stronger business because of it.

Related: 3 Ways to Use Your Twitter Data to Beat the Competition