Last year, Chase for Business and I were on a 20-city tour across the U.S. talking to small-business owners about disruption. During my talk, I asked audiences a very important question:
Who is your biggest competition?
The answers are fascinating.
One business owner in Michigan said he was a franchisee with a few auto body shops and a new competitor to the region was beating him on pricing. He explained the competition allowed customers to bring in their own, cheaper parts, and the service center would perform the labor. He had been stewing for months about how they were stealing his customers.
“Have you looked into doing the same thing?” I asked.
He said no and then offered an explanation: “I can’t warranty work on parts I don’t supply.” His answer seemed reasonable, so I asked him another question: “What if you allow people to bring their own parts, you just don’t warranty the work?”
His face softened. I kept talking: “Have you ever looked at your financials to see how much warranty work you are redoing? Do you know of any other franchisees that allow people to bring their own parts? Or what if you do the opposite? What if you lead with customer satisfaction and warranties?” There’s always an opportunity to grow if you are willing to explore it.
Then I asked: “Have you been worrying about the competition, or have you been using the competition to make your own business better?”
I think you know the answer. I ask people who their biggest competition is to get them to realize that they can leverage their business competition to make improvements and spark interest in their company.
My new friend wasn’t competing with another auto service center, but rather he was competing against his own worry and self-doubt. And it was a competition he was losing. Competing with yourself will sink your confidence and your balance sheet.
The moment you find yourself trapped in your head, overwhelmed and stewing in doubt, you need to do three things:
1. Ask someone you trust for advice on what he or she would do if faced with a similar business challenge. By seeking counsel, you’ll get out of the thinking trap and into brainstorming mode. And when you ask someone who’s not in your industry, you’ll receive an objective perspective.
2. Do a Google search for your business category and “success story,” “creative marketing,” “growth strategy” or “case study.” You’ll be surprised how fast you will find ideas that can motivate you and will beat the self-doubt in your head.
3. Road-test the advice you receive and the tips you find online.
The world is a very big place—big enough for you and your competition. Use them to your advantage, get out of your own head and rest assured that there is more than enough room for everyone.