Friday, February 21, 2014

10 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You about Business

There is hardly any business in the world that does not have its own competition. Many of us see competitors as enemies that should be totally annihilated –you wish. However, the truth is that for most of us, our competitors are here to stay, so why not make the most of them? This makes sense, right? If your competitors are a constant feature of your life, why not take advantage of them? Here are 10 things you should learn from your competitors and take advantage of:

Business competition need not be adversarial

1. Your Strengths

In the quest to beat you as a rival business, your competitors give you indications as to what you are doing right. For example, you launch a new product and your competitors are falling over themselves to get something similar into the market, then you know that you have something good going on. However, if your competitors do not react to such a new product launch, it is one of 2 things –either they are too myopic to see the benefits or you are heading off a cliff and they have left you to go about your business.

2. Your Weaknesses

Most smart managers compare their business to their rivals because this gives you an idea of where you stand. Are you the marketer leader, follower, or just a niche-taker? These different positions have different strategies that apply to them and the better you understand your position in terms of resources, capacity and constraints, the easier it becomes to take the best decisions for your business.

3. New Technologies
The Japanese rose as a global technology powerhouse after World War 2 on the back of learning from America and Europe. They studied the best products from these places and learnt how to make them better. Slowly but surely they did it, much in the same way China is doing now. You have to learn from your competitors when they are doing the right things, otherwise, you might get cut out of the market like Nokia and Blackberry have in the smartphone market. 

4. Management Techniques
You might feel uneasy about copying the management practices of your competitors but doing so can be a very smart thing as long as it does not involve breaking the law. The essence of most businesses is to maximize profits; this implies taking advantage of any beneficial information, technique, principle or philosophy that will help your cause without destroying or harming your organisation. Learn as much as you can from your rivals and improve upon the techniques you have learnt to improve your operational efficiency and effectiveness as an organisation.

5. How Not to Do Things
Just as you learn positive things from your competitors, you should also learn from their mistakes especially if you are a smaller organisation. Quick thinking and versatility are essential tools in this regard because your business might not survive the same turmoil that your rival may face.

6. Where to Get Raw Materials and Other Supplies From
This is very relevant to manufacturing companies, most of the big car makers in the world now have manufacturing plants in China, failure to do so might be suicidal because their rivals would be able to turn out cars at a much lower cost and sell at prevailing market prices.  Information Technology (IT) companies are increasingly seeing India as a hub for getting highly skilled IT professionals at a much less cost in terms of remuneration than they would in Europe and America. Your competitors are always looking to outdo you; it is in your best interest to monitor them closely when it comes to getting inputs into your business.

7. How to Avoid Regulatory Sanctions
In industries where competition is stiff, some organisations are likely to be sanctioned by government or its regulatory agencies. Whilst the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Samsung can pay huge fines and still remain in business, the same may not be applicable to your organisation. Hence, it is essential that you learn from sanctions that some of your rivals will almost surely face.

8. Who the Best Talents Are
Poaching and headhunting are 2 words that come to mind here. Bigger companies tend to attract the brightest and the best from their smaller rivals. A good example is in sports –looking closely at European club football (soccer), we find that the really big teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and so on, buy a lot of the best talent that smaller teams have. If you are in a position to do the same, you should for your business because it is more efficient to recruit high-fliers and achievers than to tryout untested talents no matter how good they appear or promise to be.

9. How to Innovate
Stiff competition often drives innovation, the rate of advancement in smartphones since Steve Jobs released the Apple iPhone in 2007 is a clear testament to this. In the attempt to beat your competition, you have to be innovative and deliver superior to theirs. This will help your organisation to grow and develop faster than it might have done without competition.

10. How to Collaborate
Competition is not always adversarial in nature, sometimes you will have to negotiate and collaborate with your competitors because you stand to benefit more by working together instead of against each other. This works particularly well when the operating environment is harsh for all organisations within an industry or even an economy. The businesses may form groups or associations to lobby the government in order to promote their interests.

I hope you will look at your competitors differently after reading this post. Let me know what you think of it and your competitors by dropping a comment.

Thank you.

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