The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 23.46

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Should you worry about your competition?

Way back when I was a young man (wayyyyy back), I was a keen martial artist. Karate, judo, kung fu and endless Bruce Lee movies fuelled my passion. And yes, I had the requisite nunchakus hanging from the wall.

My most memorable experiences were training in a full-contact karate style. Now to be sure, “full contact” didn’t mean that we went out to break bones, but blows did land, and they hurt. (And yes, I had cracked ribs, toes and fingers.) I trained against all ranks - not just in my weight category, or in my belt colour. White belt against yellow, white against brown - a constant reminder of how far I still had to go.

The most valuable lesson I learnt was this:

No matter how good you are, how fast, or how strong — there’s always someone better, faster and stronger than you.

It’s the same in business.

There’s always competition

When you start out in business, everyone seems to be a competitor. When you’re a little successful, there’s less competition. (”Maybe”, says my insecurity.) And as you get better, the pool of competition gets smaller. You’re a bigger fish, in a smaller pond.

But still you worry about competition.

And it’s a total waste of time.

Here’s the problem

Competition (the people who are doing better than you and are going to come and take your lunch) are years ahead of you. They’ve been where you are, learnt the lessons, and gained an advantage.

Let’s say someone has the advantage of being in business 5 years more than you.

Five years from now, you will be where they are.

But now they’ve moved five years on.

They’re always 5 years ahead

So no matter how hard you pedal, the competition will always be the same distance ahead. Or a little closer. Or a little further. And to add insult to injury, new people show up who you didn’t know about before and they’re going to come and take your lunch.

All that competition? Worrying about them?

It’s a waste of time. We need a mindset adjustment.

The mindset adjustment

There’s some things you need to know to adjust your mindset so you can stop worrying about competition.

1. There’s enough for everyone

Competition is based on the idea of scarcity. Way back when (even before I was a young man), we competed for food. If food was scarce, competition was more fierce. Plenty food, less competition.

Most of us live in the incredibly lucky parts of the world where we don’t need to compete for food. We have the basics, and we’re hungering for things higher up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Here’s the thing we tend to forget:

There’s enough business out there for all of us to thrive.

LinkedIn has 930 million users. Over 300 million of them use LinkedIn at least once a month. if you can reach 1% of 1% of them, there’s 30,000 leads.

The problem isn’t enough business. It’s reaching them.

2. Keeping up with competition is a copy-cat game

There was a time when I felt we had to do at least everything our competition was doing. If they released a new feature, we had to have it too. If they did some amazing marketing trick, we had to do one-up.

The result? We’re all doing more or less the same thing. And we look more or less the same.

To be sure, we can’t fall too far behind. It’s always worth looking at what others are doing to make sure we’re not missing some must-have.

But the harder truth?

If you’re building your business based on what the competition is doing, you’re never innovating. You’re never expressing your own opinion. You will never stand out.

That’s where the third part of the puzzle drops right in place.

3. Worrying about competition is the wrong worry

There are at least 2 things more important than worrying about the competition:

  • The problem you’re solving for people.
  • The people who have that problem.

Each one of us are uniquely positioned to solve a particular problem. We’ve experienced the problem, lived through it, and solved it.

And most importantly, we believe it’s just plain wrong that other people are still struggling with that problem — because we know there’s a solution.

We need to shift our focus:

  • From: worrying about the competition
  • To: worrying about the problem and the people who have it.

Can you see the power of that shift? Our energy, focus and what we do is now about helping others solve a problem. Things that make a real difference. Things that bring us more business, because when we solve a problem for someone, that someone will tell other someones.

Should you worry about your competition?

Bluntly, it’s a waste of time. Because:

  • There will always be competition.
  • The ones who are ahead of you will always be ahead of you.
  • They don’t pay you.

When you see a competitor do something amazing:

  • Study what they did.
  • Ask yourself what insight they had that led them to do that thing.
  • Then ask yourself what you haven’t seen about your problem or your people.

That’s how you get to be amazing:

  • Fall in love with the problem.
  • Fall in love with the people who have that problem.
  • Focus on solving that problem for them.

They will pay you to do that. Not your competition.