Four Reasons You Should Welcome Competition

Robin Aldrich, author

I can’t count the number of times people have told me I’m living their dream. Sounds flattering, right? Sometimes it was. But it also scared me. I wondered, “Do these people actually see me? Do they know how hard it is to run a business? If they want the entrepreneurial dream, why not go for it? Just don’t compete against me,” I thought.

In the early days of running my company, I perceived nearly everything as a threat. When people complimented me, I harbored secret fears they would one day open a similar business. The idea of competition has always been my Achilles heel.

I’ve learned if you stay in business long enough, are successful and in a niche, someone will compete. Whether it’s a new business opened by a former customer or an existing business whose lack of innovation left them stagnant, someone will want what you have. It’s the double-edged sword of entrepreneurship. I want to be successful, but not enough to be copied.

So here you are, surrounded by sharks. Are you troubled, fearful and anxious, or instead excited, challenged and grateful? They are two sides of the same road. When I’m traveling alone, I end up in the weeds. With God’s direction, I can experience the good in what I perceive as a bad situation. I learned to welcome my competition. Here are four reasons why you should too!

  1. Competition makes us lean. My first few years as an entreprenuer were comfortable, lacking any serious competition. With time and a some success, I got soft. It’s a dangerous place for any business leader. After my first competitor opened, I got scared, then busy. I cut fat from my budget and began investing in the future of my company. I got lean to stay competitive.
  2. Competition drives innovation. My daughter is a Type One diabetic (T1D). She was diagnosed when she was 12. I’ve learned more than I thought possible about pharmaceutical companies, insulin pumps, glucose meters and how close scientists are to developing an artificial pancreas (for diabetics). Extreme competition in these industries fuel incredible, lifesaving innovations.
  3. Competition leads to collaboration. When I opened my first natural pet food market in 2005, natural pet foods were a thing of the future. They had taken off on the West Coast, but in the midwest, our best options were commercial, mass-produced pet foods. My stores were seen as innovative. We came alongside local animal rescue groups in our area, collaborating on fundraising and adoption events. We also offered space to local artists and artisans whose crafts meshed with our mission. Collaboration made my company and community stronger.
  4. Competition sharpens our edge. Our first business venture was a failure in monetary terms, but succeeded in it’s ability to educate. We bought our first company from my husband’s retiring employer. What seemed like a sound investment soon turned to loss after we failed to keep up with our big-budget, national competitors. Losing can blunt our lives or sharpen our focus. It allows us to see not only the failure, but our perseverance and the razor-sharp, competitive edge we forged in the fire of adversity.

In the world of entrepreneurship, imitation is a form a flattery. It’s also a doorway to competition. If you successfully create a new niche in your market, you’ll be copied. Will you let your competition define you, or will you welcome the opportunity to strengthen and grow your business? ~ R.

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