Before and even when you are in business, understanding who you are competing with is paramount to your enduring business success. You cannot operate your business in a vacuum. You have to know everything – and I mean everything – about your competitors – they’ll be watching you, I promise. Before you start working on your business, you have to observe what your competition is doing. Sit outside and watch:

  • Who is going into their business?
  • How long on average do they stay?
  • Are the majority buying or just browsing?
  • How do you rate the customer experience?

If you are going to attempt to steal a share of their business away from them, you are going to have to capitalize on what they do poorly. You also have to be better than they are in those areas where they excel. It is no use being “just as good as everyone else” – you have to be better.

You should be constantly ranking the competition in the key areas:

  • Product
  • Service
  • Cleanliness
  • Marketing
  • Staffing

A business is made up of a number of different components and it is your job to identify them and decide whether you can do better than your competition in any or all of them. You should be evaluating your own business once you open to see if there are weaknesses in your operation. Don’t fool yourself. Be brutally honest. You must always be objective about your own business. If you are having trouble with objectivity, then hire someone to tell you what they think.

You have to be aware of your own weaknesses and move to eliminate them. If you are having supply issues, you should change your suppliers. If you are having employee issues, then you should find new ones. If your training program is inefficient, then you should modify it. Knowing that you have a weakness and not doing something about it makes you very vulnerable.

You should always be looking for opportunities to help distance yourself from your competition. These opportunities may be short-term or maybe long-term. No matter, when you see an opportunity to dominate a market, capitalize on it by moving swiftly and decisively. Seize the moment for he who hesitates is lost. Let’s say, for example, that your major competitor has little or no social media presence. Jump on it immediately and always stay ahead of them as they attempt to catch up.

Having a healthy relationship with your competition is also a good idea. Maybe you don’t want to deal in a particular segment of the industry and he does. Send business his way. He’ll remember. He might return the favor if given the chance. You never want to have an adversarial relationship with your competition – it just isn’t healthy. As they say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.