Having a healthy respect for your rivals is one of the key attributes of any champion. They are putting in the same hard training as you, they overcome the same obstacles and face the same fears. In some ways, you are running the race together, although you are competing against each other. You have more in common than you would like to admit, and the moment you dismiss this fact is the moment that you start to lose ground.
In sport and in business, there are competitors and companies that do things the right way, and there are others that do things the wrong way. The drugs cheats may have years of success, but most are discovered in the end. Businesses who chase short term wins at the expense of long-term relationships can be classed in the same way. They won’t last long.
You don’t have to worry about these sorts of “competitors” – they will self-destruct perfectly well on their own.
However, you shouldn’t be arrogant enough to assume that you are the only company out there doing the “right things.” You aren’t the only people to enjoy close relationships with your clients. You aren’t the first or the last company to make your people feel like legends the moment they walk through your doors. You definitely aren’t the only ones with ambitious growth plans.
It may well even be unrealistic to aim to keep one step ahead of such competition. If you are both growing (and growing in the right way), it may simply mean that you are growing the size of the pie for each other, and you will both benefit in the long run if you focus on what you need to do. With a laser focus on what you need to do to get ahead, you don’t need to worry about what others are doing. What you should never do is attempt to destabilize them.
Any business that attempts to derail their competition will inevitably take their eyes off the ball. Bad-mouthing each other won’t help win you more business. Attempting to poach each other’s staff won’t work because people won’t want to leave. Expanding your business into their territory may bring incremental benefits, but if it is all that they do, they will always be seen as the ultimate experts.
When you respect your competition, they will respect you. There is no harm in talking about common issues at industry events. Sometimes you may need to take a common stand to resolve things. Your competitors will never be your partners, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be open to win-win solutions.
Lastly, don’t forget that market forces ensure a constantly changing competitive environment. Your competitor base will change and fortunes will fluctuate – make sure that you are on the right side of the changes and try to be the company to follow rather than the company that is following.
Competition is a fact of life. How you react to it will define your success.