As a business owner one of my main worries is burning out before I have reached my business goals.
I am always mindful to keep myself healthy and have some kind of work/life balance regime (though it never seems to balance out the way it should!). I even started gardening to get back to nature and away from the computer since my businesses are all Internet based.
There are many ways to burn out in business but one way I see time and time again occurring are business owners focusing on what their competitors are doing way more than what they should.
We all have business competitors and in a positive way that’s good for everyone including the competing businesses. Healthy competition invigorates the market and leads to new and fresh ideas.
But when you spend the bulk of your time changing your business to match your competitors the burn out rate increases.
I use to try and copy what my competitors were doing as I thought they were somehow better than me. Overtime I realized that this was not a good thing. Not only was I breaking my own goals and business plan but I was also confusing my customers! One minute I was talking about adding feature “X” then finding out that one of my competitors has added feature “Y” so I would drop “X” and add “Y”.
Overtime following your competitors becomes downright dangerous to the success of your business and your own health. To stop myself obsessing over my competitors I devised the following game plan.
1) Make sure your business has a unique feature/service to it that is different from your competitors. This all comes back to owning your “category” which customers and prospects can use to separate you from the rest. For example Mobilize Mail specializes in providing customised email marketing solutions. Mobilize Mail systems can connect to the clients system be it CMS, CRM, POS whatever and add custom business logic to the clients email marketing strategy. I know for a fact that we are the only Email Service Provider in NZ that can do what we do. So we focus on that “category” and keep building on it.
2) Stick to your business plan and business goals. There is nothing more stressful than constantly changing a business plan because you want to follow a competitor. From personal experience I can tell you its very stressful constantly changing your plans as there will always be a little bit of doubt running around in your head that maybe your competitor doesn’t have a clue what they are doing.
3) Keep a “wish list” for any feature/service your competitors provide that you want to add to your own business. If you do see something that your competitors are offering that would fit well into your own business model add it to your “wish list”. By having a “wish list” you can feel confident that you won’t forget the idea which allows you to focus on what you have planned to do already. I found this task really helpful in controlling the urge to drop what I was currently doing and focus on a new thing I had discovered from a competitor. I often got really stressed with myself for not having the control to continue with what I was doing instead focusing on the new “must have” leaving loads of projects half completed.
4) Ask your clients what they want. This is one of the most effective ways to prioritize your work and reduce competitor obsession. If a client wants something then do that first if of course it fits into you overall plan for the business. Not only does the client feel like you care but their idea may open up another unique feature/service that can be used to increase your specialization within the market. Some really great features we offer have come from existing clients ideas not our competitors!
Focusing too much on what your competitors are doing leads you and your business down a path of stress and also unpredictability for your clients. Listen to your own ideas machine (that’s you) and focus on providing features/services that are unique to the market so you instantly become the market leader, which means your competitors will “have” to follow you.