Six Ways To Deal With Competitors

Let’s talk competition. With now over 3000 Stack World members, some of you are bound to be doing similar things… here’s how to utilise that

By Sharmadean Reid

28 January 2022

he thing about creating a very cult-like team is that they feel super protective over the business and when they see anyone wade into our domain - whether that’s from a visual aesthetic /industry /ambassadors etc - they get incredibly upset. But negative energy spent on the competition is positive energy not spent thinking about your business. So in the simplest terms, I don’t.

That said, I’ve decided to write on competitors this week because our network is growing. Now at over 3000 Members, it’s only natural that there will be women amongst you who are doing something similar, if not the exact same thing, and over the last few weeks, I’ve encountered several situations around the theme of competition.

So let’s talk about competition.

I understand why some women have a scarcity mentality. The numbers for gender equality reinforce the notion that there is simply not enough to go around. If you knew that only 9.8% of students on the Computer Science course at Oxford University were women or 18% in Physics and even only 33.7% in the PPE course - (the grooming ground for the next UK Prime Minister), it’s understandable that you would want to fight for your place.

Women have never had enough to go around. I totally understand where this paranoia comes from but girl, it’s not going to get you to the next stage. As I’m getting older I feel that I can solidly and without question put people into two categories - scarcity mindset and abundant mindset. It’s only now in my later life, I realise I can’t surround myself with scarcity people - the ones who don’t want to share resources, who hide their contacts and are eternally paranoid they’re being ripped off. In my 20s it was entertaining. In my 30s it was tiring. And trust me, one day your success will find you on the wrong side of them. So leave those people alone.

But everything is on a spectrum, right? Few people in the world can maintain the constant equilibrium of self-confidence and contentment. And so when you’re in your lower self, you might edge into scarcity mindset and start fearing the competition. So let’s talk about working through that and getting you back into Abundance!

Here are my 6 Ways for Dealing With Competitors…

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Consider if you want a world with no problems to solve.

The feelings are annoying right? The Ick, panic, irritation you feel because of competitors so let’s start by meditating on it. What if you reframed these feelings by considering how much attention you’re giving them and if this is how you want to feel right now? This meditation by Sam Harris on Solving Problems gives a game changing perspective. The general premise being - do you really want to wake up one day and have no new problems to solve? Nothing to do? No new challenges? If you’re a Stack Member, I can’t imagine this is your bag. Try and see this competitor issue as an exciting new level to unlock in the game of startups. If life was easy, I’m sure you’d be somewhat bored. I listen to this meditation several times a month. Embrace the problem.

Acknowledge that it proves your market is hot.

Competition shows demand for your entire industry. There is no point in being too early in your industry because customers will not be ready. Many start-ups have failed by being the lone early launch. Customers start believing in a product when they see multiple offerings in the space. Think back to when gel polish by CND launched in 2009. It was a novelty - would it work, would it last etc and customers were reluctant to try. When multiple companies started offering rival products, it legitimised the technology. And now everyone wears gel polish as the norm. Same goes with the CBD industry. Simply existing does not mean success right? Just because people are playing in your space does not mean they’ll win. This month ALONE I’ve seen 4 financial education startups and 3 menopause ones. You might see a crowded market, I see an exciting growing space that will make investors believe it’s real.

Negative energy spent on the competition is positive energy not spent thinking about your business

Use it as fuel, energy to burn on your rocket ship. Healthy competition is good.

Competition does keep you on your toes. The famous book by Andy Grove called Only The Paranoid Survive is slightly extreme in the title but an amazing case study on dealing with competitors. While I would not advise paranoia, I do understand that keeping abreast of what is going on in your industry is necessary if you are using that as fuel for your next move. Sometimes I can get complacent and rest on my laurels until I start to see that there are other people nipping at my heels doing the same thing. I like a healthy amount of competition to thrive, but just make sure it stays as fuel - underneath you, propelling you up, and it burns off - not your oxygen.

Look forward, keep innovating and stay one step ahead.

Competition keeps you innovating and that fuel should take your rocket ship out of the atmosphere. If you create something and somebody replicates it in its entirety the easiest way to remove any anxiety about competitors is by reinventing and reinventing and reinventing over and over again. Launch baby! You keep pressing forward and they have to keep catching up. How cute! What can you do today that will take your business out of the room of average and supercharge it into an anomaly? Keep it moving...

Know what makes you special.

If you want to keep moving forward you need to think strategically about what makes you special. List out your personal USP. Your fingerprint experiences life that no one can replicate. Bake these into your product. It might be that you grew up in the North, so you have unique knowledge of how to attract that audience to be your early customers. It might be that you had a former life as a DJ, meaning your branding will be inspired by rave culture instead of looking like the cookie cut startup logo. List out what makes you, you.

Now do the same for your product. One liner answers for

Who is your customer?

What do they believe in?

What is the feature they’ll use the most?

How do you make money?

And now, the next time you encounter someone who THINKS that you’re a competitor with something like “Oh wow, we are doing really similar things, eh?” you can have the following conversation:

Oh amazing! Are you building a product for (insert your customer demographic)

Well no…

Oh, are your users obsessed with (insert your customer beliefs and aims)

No, not quite…

Oh, can they (insert unique feature they’ll use)

Well no…

Oh, will you be monetising through (insert your monetisation strategy)

Well no…

Oh! Maybe we have the same intention - and that’s a good thing, right? Because we all want (insert company mission here) but we have a very different customer, business model and monetisation strategy. It’s so exciting that our industry is growing. We should stick together and share notes!

You’ll soon find that when you break it down, most businesses win and lose on their distribution model and monetization strategies, not their colour palette. However, if today, your business and your competitors' business IS doing the exact same 4 things, then now is the time to dig deep and think of ways you can stand out from the crowd. Brainstorm how you can keep innovating.

Be gracious.

Be the host. Invite, welcome and support your competitors. This is the easiest way to quell your competitor rage. The first time you do it, it may be through gritted teeth but trust me, it works. Invite them to dinner. Ask them how you can collaborate. Send them kind notes and flowers when they win. This is not some slimy power play (remember we are over the masculine way of building our empires) but a genuine New Method of calming your own anxieties and being the bigger person. Inexplicably this does give you more power. Power over your emotions as it makes you feel better to be kind than snide. Your competitors are expecting you to hate them. How classy of you to collaborate with and nurture them instead. You never know when you might need their support.

Being the host is now my default way of existing but only because I have gone through the other steps and I know myself, I know my value and I know that I can always produce more. I know what makes me special and I have done the research on how we can turn that into a commercial opportunity. When I first started this work, there was a big gap between me doing the right thing and me actually WANTING to do the right thing and hell yeah, there were times when I was petty. But now, my moves are pretty transparent and 99% genuine. If I give you work, it’s because I think you’re good at it, if I cut your work, it’s because I can’t afford it. If I invest in you, it’s because I want to support you. If I cancel a meeting or keep you waiting it’s because I really am running late or busy. It’s not a power play. I’m always bemused by the idea that people think I have free brain space to think about plotting to compete with them.

Collaboration is classy. Remember to stay in your lane, slay in your lane and stay focussed on your team and your business.

(Sign up before the price goes up!)

Get more from The Stack and connect with a network of over 3000 women by becoming a member today. You’ll be able to join all our events, have access to our clubs and dive into our library of on demand videos - all whilst powering women in business! Sign up here!

The Short Stack

Negative energy spent on the competition is positive energy not spent thinking about your business.

By Sharmadean Reid

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