Competing On The Web & In Business


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.

Your Comments

  • Suzanne Vara


    The competitive nature, for those that have it, and know how to use it is a secret weapon. It is the left footed kick of the soccer ball when everyone was expecting a right foot. Knowing and anticipating what will happen next of your competitors by watching them as they do not watch themselves enough to know that they do and react the same way or almost the same way every time.

    Having the competitive nature and using it to your advantage when building a team is powerful. If you go by knowing your strengths and reinforcing them and exposing them you become a better business person. We would be foolish as a small agency to try and make people believe that we everything about everything and have outside help. Though I see that a lot where a small agency has all these employees and each of them specialized in 1 thing. Really? The key is to have the team around you as you are able to expand upon what you know and your offerings by showing you are active in the community. Also, being active in the community and your peers/colleagues want to do business with you. That should tell your clients a lot as well.


  • Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire


    Sometimes you just have to act like an animal and that will get you through the tough times. I really liked today’s post, because there haven’t been that many people that talk about the competetive attitude that you need to have in order to survive in business. Even if you are shy, it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep one eye on the competition and see what they are up to.

    17 months in a small business is the rough part. Now you just have to make it past the first 4 years and you willl no longer be a statistic.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  • Hugo from Zeta

    Hard to stay away from a soccer analogy. Well done.

    I find it interesting, that like you, I also grew up playing soccer competitively (speed was also my No. 1 physical asset). Wonder how many other online marketers come from a similar athletic pedigree?

    P.S. I also ran track a lot growing up, and what I learned from that sport (which I apply to business) is that in order to beat the competitors right next to you it’s important to focus on yourself (your own breathing and strides) as opposed constantly looking to your sides to see where your competitors are. In other words, focus on perfecting your own skills, tactics, and strategic mindset and you’ll likely leave your competitors in the dust.

  • Karie

    Ha! ‘the act of speaking to people in real life makes me want to throw up. ‘, made me laugh so hard. I am exactly the same. Ever since I started working at home by myself on the Internet, I am just like this!

    I like the article. Stay competitive!

  • James

    Great post, by the end I felt like I should be cheering or honking an air horn whilst singing a bawdy chant. No, I haven’t been drinking.

    A competitive spirit is one of the few personality traits I’d expect to see in any successful entrepreneur, but it’s also one of the few things I don’t think you can teach. If you weren’t one of the four year olds who cried after losing a football match (back in the days when it was socially acceptable to keep score in toddler sports), you’d better partner up with some of the kids who did.

    • James

      And for the record, that chant would go something like:

      Lisa Barone, Barone,
      She makes Robert Scoble moan,
      She types from a blogging throne,
      Lisa Barone, Barone

      To the tune of the John Carew Song
      Warning: This video contains ovary exploding cuteness

      Now I just have to find a way to make the two hours I spent composing that chant billable.

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    You never cease to deliver in your writing Lisa. I swear, when I read your articles, it’s like I’m reading something from a person with 20 years of experience in business.

  • Scott Golembiewski | The Dealer Blog

    Great point, and if you happen to get a check engine light you can count on my help and not wait two years. :)

  • Will Scott


    Your control of the language never ceases to amaze me.

    This is my favorite: “Your competitors are who your customers would give their sale to if you weren’t around.”

    Online, “if you weren’t around” = “if you can’t be found”.

    Lovely. Thanks,

    • Jessy Troy

      Ok, I had to read the quote twice to get it. Not that it sounds too complex, it’s that the more you read, the smarter it appears.

  • Nevil Darukhanawala

    I am not a competitive person and never have been. But post starting a SEO company, I was suddenly faced by competition for myself and my clients. Nice post, good tips.

  • Andrew@BloggingGuide

    I like the idea of knowing your team because as a saying goes, there is strength in numbers. Man cannot really live alone or all by himself. He is a social creature, so he needs to interact with people. Just be sure that these people you get to interact with and help you with your endeavors can really be trusted and share the same ideas as yours.

  • Anthony Piwarun

    Thanks for bringing this up Lisa. No matter what type of business you’re in, knowing your strengths and leveraging them to compensate for your weaknesses will get you through any situation, big or small. Great post.

  • Jim Jinright

    Your information is right on the mark. So many people misunderstand who they’re really competing with. Understanding your strengths and separating yourself from your competition is what the focus should be on. What’s the old song “paranoia self destroyer.”
    Business owners are much better served operating with a abundance mentality. Focus on your strengths and on serving your customer! Excellent post!

  • Rachel Howe

    Great, detailed post. It’s definitely a jungle out there in business, ESPECIALLY a field like internet marketing.