4 tips for how to deal with competition in business

I just returned from spending a long, few days at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, which is literally the largest horse show in the world. Luckily for me, I’ve grown up attending and competing at it, as it’s based in Columbus, Ohio, which is only an hour drive north of my hometown, Chillicothe. Thanks to a great, once-in-a-lifetime horse that my family has owned for almost 30 years, who is now retired of course, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience winning championships there — which is something that most horse owners and exhibitors only dream of doing. Now, years later, I’m back there competing on a different horse and it hasn’t always been easy to start over. “Layla” is 9 now and after a lot of time and hard work, she has become a really nice horse and one that I feel competitive on again. The last couple of years, she has even started earning her own Top Ten and even Reserve Champion honors there. With the thousands of horses that haul into Columbus every October, it’s easy for anyone there to get overwhelmed by all of the money, prizes to be won, fancy bling and other competitors. It’s extremely important for me to just focus on myself, my mare and the job that we need to perform.

The only thing easier than getting caught up in a competitive mindset at the world’s largest horse show is getting caught up in the comparison game of running a business online. I used to find myself (and still do, occasionally) “cyber-stalking” fellow lady designers who I thought were running kick-butt businesses and who I wanted to be like, more than anything.

But, was I admiring from afar in a healthy and normal way or spending too much time being envious and jealous? Sometimes, figuring that out is a tough call. The good news is that there can be positive aspects to both mindsets. Admiring fellow competitors and businesses similar to yours allows you to see what’s working for others, what’s perhaps not working for you and helps you to keep an open mind to new strategies and practices. And, even if you are feeling a little competitive with them at the same time, it’s OK to recognize that, embrace the feelings and understand why you’re feeling them, but then — remember to follow these 4 tips for how to deal with those negative feelings at the end of the day:

1) Follow and admire a few favorites.

Instead of looking at those fellow business owners (whose Instagrams you obsess over and who are killing it with their launches and packaged services) as competition, view them as networking buddies! Connect with them via social media or engage with them in Facebook groups. See if it’s OK for you to ask them a few questions about how they got to where they are today. Look at the things that are working for them in their businesses and consider trying to do something similar for yours — with your own twist, of course. Try to even email them! Many times, people that we all consider to be super successful are still gracious enough to take 5 minutes to respond. Some even open free time slots every few months to schedule calls with them, so take advantage of that! No matter what, remember that they’re normal, everyday working people, running a business — just like you! Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and form a possible professional relationship. You will soon not be viewing them as competition. Doing this is much healthier and more positive, all around.

2) Collaborate with others.

You should also try to not call your “competitors” just that — “competitors.” I don’t even like to use that word because they shouldn’t be viewed as such and it’s given a negative context. After all, we are all in this entrepreneurial journey together. So, in addition to reaching out to those potential business pals, look into possibly even working together! Poking around in Facebook groups is a great way to find someone who does something similar to you, maybe has the same client base and even the same style. Brainstorm a project that is based on the needs of your clients — something that can helpful to them — and create a product or service, with the help of someone else. This should be a no-brainer that it’s a win-win for both of you! It creates a great partnership; puts both of your businesses out there and most importantly, will benefit your clients. 

3) Stay unique and still do you.

Even if you see what is working for other people, don’t forget to still stay true to yourself. It’s easy to get swept up in what everyone else is doing, but at the end of the day, you have to do what truly makes you happy and what feels right in your gut. For example, you can be a graphic designer (like myself) and although there are thousands of other designers out there who are females, around my age and offering the same types of services that I do, none of them are me or doing the work EXACTLY how I am doing it. What attracts your clients, makes them happy, keeps them coming back for more or at least referring you to others, is often the emotional experience that they get when working with you — and only you can give that to them.

4) Remember that there is always room for everyone.

This is a huge lesson for all business owners to learn. No matter how many others are out there like you, doing exactly what you’re doing, there are going to be people who buy from them AND who buy from you. Don’t stress over the idea of competition. Quite frankly, it’s a waste of time. If you focus on yourself, your business, how to create the best experiences for your clients and really love what you do, you will be successful and your clients will find you. And, other business owners will connect with theirs, as well. Embrace that we all are passionate about what we do, want the same things and have big dreams. We really are all in this together and can help each other out — not tear each other down. 

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