Competition sucks, right? I mean, what if they do it better than me? What if they do it bigger than me? What if they crush me? Crap!!!
I work with tons of early-stage startups. There are many similarities in character traits working within this demographic. I often find myself teaching the same lessons over and over again. Something I hear about often is the fear of competition. Based on my experience, here is a super-positive spin on competition:
Validation. The bottom line is that if you did not have competition, that would be a BAD thing. You think that you are the only one to think of that brilliant idea? Think again. Anything that’s worth doing has a form of it around already. The more competition, the more opportunity. I'm not saying that you have not figured out a way to do it better. I am simply saying that if nobody is doing it at all, it may not be worth doing. I love the saying that my buddy Daymond John always says: “Pioneers get slaughtered, and the settlers prosper.” If you find yourself alone in a market wondering where all the competition is, you very may be standing alone with no customers.
Learn from the enemy. Everyone knows the saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” This is a tactic from The Art of War.
PRO TIP: If you have not read it, you NEED to read Art of War.
If you pay attention, your competition can teach you the biggest lessons. In my world, there is a dominant company that is scaling like wild fire. I have an open window into what they're doing, and I can learn what works and what doesn't. I have learned lessons on how to scale the business properly, what materials to use, the use of space, etc. Using this to my advantage, I have the benefit of picking and choosing what I want to offer, not sacrificing my time and money to do research and development. And while this saves you time and money, the lessons you learn from your competition are priceless as long as you are willing to listen, learn, and implement.
Imitation is the best form of flattery. My team works super hard developing programs for the community at AlleyNYC. The stuff we do is copied everyday. If your competition is copying things that you worked your ass off on, it could be super annoying. The truth is that it means what you are doing is more than likely working. They are simply learning from you, as you should be learning from them. It goes both ways. Imitation is going to happen, like it or not, so embrace it and pat yourself on the back!
Keeping you on your game. A competitive market is what drives capitalism. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Better yet: Love the game! Competition drives us to be the best we can be. It takes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to create better products and services. If you do not continue to make things better, you are not innovating. The failure to innovate leads to obsolescence. Keep making your product better and better.
Stay on your game and be competitive. The best entrepreneurs I know are super competitive. If you are not competitive, you may as well pack your bags and hit the bricks.
PRO TIP: Drew Houston knew that cloud service provides like BOX existed and had a huge presence in that market. Google announced around that time period that they will providing cloud services and, well, they are GOOGLE. With all that, he still had a vision of making cloud services simple and easy for everyone. He created DropBox and his personal net worth is now estimated at $1.2 billion. #winning.
Collaboration. Our business culture is shifting to a more collaborative lifestyle, which is why spaces like AlleyNYC are extremely popular. If you work in a vacuum, you are missing out. I have seen startups that had the sense to work with their competition. To my amazement, this actually worked out ridiculously well. I am not saying that it is for everyone, but based on what I have seen, it works more so than not. If it is a big enough market, combining forces can be very powerful. This especially works when there is a larger, dominating competitor in the market. In this case, you work with your smaller competition to get a stronghold over the market share. In this example, the more soldiers you have in your army, the better. Business is a war, people. Collaborate and kick some serious ass!
With all this said, I know how tough competition can be. In the past, I have worked in extremely saturated markets. In my experience, the most saturated markets are the most profitable. All you need to focus on is doing your thing and doing it harder and better than the rest. In my experience this is a sure fire recipe for success. Let your competition drive you. HUSTLE ON.
Related: 6 Ways to Avoid Getting Screwed