There are many things that make me a crappy entrepreneur. Just naming a few: I second guess myself, I spend too much time on projects, and the act of speaking to people in real life makes me want to throw up. Not exactly a shining example of a business owner, right? That said there is something that has helped me in my trials as a reluctant entrepreneur. Do you want to know what it is?
I’m competitive. And I’ve been taught how to compete.
As a kid, my competitiveness was channeled through sports. Being tiny and less than 100 pounds through the age of 14, I broke a lot of bones hurling my body at competitors on the soccer field. I had no fear of getting hurt, even if that meant I spent much of my youth in arm casts. During high school, my competitiveness was nurtured at an ultra-competitive private school that pushed kids to their absolute limit in both academics and athletics. I learned how to turn my competitiveness from something ugly to something that made me more aware. And it’s stuck.
In order to survive on the Web, you have to know how to compete. You need to go in aware of who’s around you, what’s unique about you and be driven enough to take it over. And that means knowing a few things.
Know Your Real Competitors
Often when talking to a new client we’ll ask them to identify five of their most direct competitors. The truth is we already know the answer. We’ve done our research, now we want to see if they’ve done theirs. It always surprises me when business owners don’t have a firm grasp on who their competitors really are. It’s a lot harder to compete when you start playing on the wrong field.
Your competitors are who your customers would give their sale to if you weren’t around. That means you may have different competitors now that you’re online and not just a brick and mortar. It also means that just because YOU think you’re competing with Amazon, doesn’t mean you really are if your customers wouldn’t put you two together. That may not be how THEY see you. That’s what you need to know and understand- who do your customers think you’re competing with?
Know Your ‘Other’ Competitors
Your other competitors are the ones you create yourself. They are the things/people/sites that take you away from your business and eat your time. It’s Twitter. It’s Facebook. It’s industry drama. It’s the ringing phone and the binging email. It’s your self-doubt. It’s your sending five emails to get approval you didn’t need. It’s the really good show on TV. It’s your woulda, coulda, shoulda. It’s your fear of being successful.
These are all competitors to your business. Know that they exist and they work to keep them under control.
Know Your Team
Very few people survive on the Web alone. Instead, they surround themselves with a team of people, with each player attaching more value. Knowing and being able to rely on your team helps you to compete better and gives you allies you can go to when you need someone to help you make a play. It also gives you people you know you can trust. That tends to be important in business and on the Web. Know, for certain, who is on your team and who is simply lingering by the benches looking for information or to dethrone you.
I know that I’ve benefited from creating a strong Web team. I have the people I work with on a daily basis (Rae, Rhea, and Dawn), but I also have the people I can run side plays when one of us needs a push or if someone’s having a hard time moving the ball down the line. I know certain bloggers I can call up when things get dry and we want to cause some trouble. I know who to go to for assistance on a big play. And I know who has my back when I need someone to fill in. Building yourself a Web team helps you support what your business is doing.
Know Your Strengths
My strength in sports was always my speed. I was simply head and shoulders faster than anyone near me and, because of that, I could help make things happen even if I didn’t have the best aim when kicking a ball. In business, my strength comes from my words. I use them to create impact.
When we started Outspoken Media in a recession (it’s a good story) we trusted it because Rhea, Rae and myself all knew our individual strengths and we knew how those strengths could be used together to kick ass as a team. And to date, we’ve been right. As a business and as an individual, you should know your strengths and create your strategy around them. There are certain things about you that make you uniquely qualified to do what you do (and if not, maybe you should be doing something else). That’s your point of difference, it’s your secret weapon, and it’s what you should be using to compete. Make note of your strengths and figure out how they can be incorporated into your business.
Know When To Make A Play
Business is sport, but it shouldn’t be a war. That means knowing the right time to make a play and when to sit out and save everyone from the bloodbath. Taking every shot that comes your way is going to drain resources, exhaust you and probably make you look a little desperate. While keeping your eyes open, listening and knowing when to strike is going to help you capitalize when opportunities expose themselves.
Make a play when a competitor has opened a door, when there’s a chance to create leadership through action or when you’re following a noble purpose. Sit out when you risk burning a bridge, damaging your brand, and when “winning” won’t aid your long term objectives. Learn to tell the difference.
Seventeen months into Outspoken Media, I’m still learning how to be a confident businesswoman and entrepreneur. But one thing I’ve already learned how to do is smell blood and compete. I can sum up my competitors, anticipate their moves, and I refuse to let anyone get the better of me. It drives me to be better, to always be on, and to strike when I feel it in my gut.
About the Author
Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.