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Stop thinking about the Competition

Never mind the opposition, just work on your own game.

As a nation of sports people, we understand sports analogies, and draw parallels between sports and work performances and results. As a lover of sport I too draw inspiration from sports people who have a story to tell. One of my favourites is the legendary American Football coach Vince Lombardi. And one of my favourite Vince Lombardi quotes is “Run to Daylight”

I read a report last week from “Recruiter Daily” that reminded me of an aspect of our game that I thought was hugely important at this time. And it made it more significant because I had a discussion that same day with a member of our team.

"Stop thinking about the competition."

Why your personal best is better

Competitor analysis is a great way to assess where you stand in the marketplace. If you methodically work through the key strengths of your competitors, it will soon become apparent where you do well and where you could do better. It's a useful process; one that should be ongoing, not just a one-off project.

But there's a danger here. If you focus only what the others are doing better than you, it is easy to lose sight of what you do well. It is an axiom in life that some people do some things better than you. Conversely, you do some things better than others.

In business it is no different. Competitive advantage comes from all sorts of sources. It might be location, time in the market, technology, training, key personalities or something special to them, or you.

Some of these things can be addressed. Sometimes they can't. If your competitor has a natural strength in an area where you are weak, you can waste a lot of resources trying to address it. Another axiom is this: it takes a lot more effort to make a half-way decent impact on your weaknesses than it does to lift your strongest suit to an even higher level.

What is the alternative?

Instead of undertaking a major project to address a perceived weakness, try just doing everything slightly better. Ask your sales team or your counter staff to go the extra mile for just one customer tomorrow. Ask them to tell you what they did at the end of the day. Start a dialogue about it.

If you want a work environment as good or better than the opposition, do the same thing for one of your staff tomorrow. Ask other managers to do the same. Write it down at the end of the day. Share the information. Then do something again the day after.

Start building a culture of doing something a little bit better each day. Build on your strengths. Ask people what is going right. Then ask them if they can do more of it tomorrow. You will start to build momentum in the areas where you and your people are naturally strongest.

It has long been understood in sports psychology that athletes perform better – and consistently better over longer periods of time – if they look to improving their personal best rather than focusing on the competition.

There is a natural advantage in this

By focusing on your personal best, you are constantly looking at what you are doing well. That in itself is positive. What's more, you get encouragement and inspiration when you do it even better. Do this consistently and the marketplace will also start to notice.

Many successful businesses started this way. When Apple produced their first computer in a garage, they didn't copy anyone. They just made the best one they could make. Apple still does. The IPod didn't simply reinvent the Walkman. It moved laterally into an entirely new dimension.

You don't have to be an entrepreneurial risk-taker to do this. It works for individuals, for managers, for small businesses and large corporations. Keep a keen eye on the competition, but don't get bogged down in worrying about their strengths. Work on your own. Develop a culture of doing what you do best, then doing it even better