Competition – Good or Bad for a Small Business?

Competition is not as important as most small businesses thinkMany people have talked to me about business and offered a glimpse of what they focus on when it comes to running a small business.  With regards to competition, its usually framed in a way that sounds whiny, cry-babyish, like, “seriously, how do you survive out there with all the competition“.  Thankfully, I realize that its a natural protection mechanism that we all have built in.  People want to protect themselves from bad things, from bad experiences in life.  Where it appears there is even a little risk, its easy to [level-premier-free]reason away what could be a good thing by focusing on a factor like competition.

OBJECTIVE:   To show the reader that while competition is something to be aware of, its nothing to be afraid of.  Competition is an information source that helps you further learn the market, that’s all.  Not anything to worry about, fret about or lose sleep over.  It should be embraced.  Furthermore, you can set a standard among the competition by refusing to “compete” at their level, raising the bar and making more money than your competition.  This is the objective of this blog.

Does competition matter?

Of course it does.  How much does the competition matter should be the question.

There is so much competition, how can one compete?

This begs the question that one cannot compete unless there is little or no competition.

How can I compete?

We educate our children to ask the right questions, questions that empower rather than dis-empower themselves.  While the question of competition IS indeed an important one, I have heard from many people, questions of all sorts regarding the competition beast.  The properly formed questions yield wonderful results and the ability to learn and embrace change and learning.  Questions that are bad, are, well just impossible to deal with.  The person that asks them has already set in their mind the answer and they are either looking for confirmation or to be told otherwise.

Case Study – Pet Supplies

A recent study encompassed a major business field of interest, where most people have or have had a need for this service, pet supplies.  What I found was a boatload of competition.   A search of Google of Pet supply stores yielded over 11,000,000 competitors.  Curious, my mind raced to find out how the small fish could possibly survive among the larger, longer-dominant fish and the many millions of other competing fish.  It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of how.

To summarize what was a very long journey of studying the competition and their page load speeds, flash, things that make people abandon shopping carts, colors that make people sick, the eye-path of the customer, selection limitations, etc., etc… I can say this.  The larger, more dominant fish are slow, unwieldy and saddled with routines and limitations.   And because of this, they can be met head on in the marketplace.  Case in point.  In my studies of various pet supply behemoths, a startling fact became very clear.   Their page load speeds were 2-3 seconds.    Another startling fact popped in my mind.  If nearly half of people on the internet are still using dial-up and these stores have page load speeds of 2-3 seconds, a dial-up customer could have to sit there waiting for a page to load for close to ten seconds!  Those customers will shop at a store like mine, that loads in under a second.

Chalk that up as one how.

My eye turned to product selection.  After finding the nation’s largest supplier of pet supplies, I was interested to find out why the big box stores did not carry this massive and overwhelming inventory.  Reason?  If the competition did carry an entire product line stock, they would have to entertain returns and refunds in their retail stores where shelf-space is limited.

Another how.

Next was the shipping methods.  Many competitors were stocking product, paying for rent at warehouses and embracing the drop-ship method which I discuss here.   These limitations and burdens of expenses didn’t compare to my inventory free, just-in-time business model run from home.

Another how.

Next was the almighty important pricing mechanism for my web store.  Surely, we would have to compete on price right?  Read my blog called,
Should my website have the best prices?  Here you will see that is clearly another how the competition stacks up.

Before long, it became clear that the competition became less and less important and simply not worthy of my worried attention.

Why focusing on the Competition is BAD:

When you focus on the competition, you are not building your own business, your market, making your customers happy or improving your product or service.  It is easy to get caught up.  Look at our nation: we plop down on the couch and watch endless hours of others living lives on television, situations that we find interesting or entertaining, instead of living ourselves.   Small business owners know they do not have such a luxury.  A business does not “fail”, the small business owner fails to maintain focus!  That’s it.  Why give your competition that gift by your own hand?

Fear is either a motivator to get out of a burning building or a limiter that prevents us from having and doing what we want in life.  Use fear  to drive you to focus on what matters, marketing and profiting and living a life that you dream about.

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