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Are You Leading or Following the Competition?

The most effective companies are those that lead in their marketplace rather than follow. I’ll give you an example of a “follower” company. I know of one company who, rather than take the lead in their market, would review competitor’s website and then duplicate what they do. They never took the lead in their industry. Mainly due to the fact that they had no true leadership in place (leaders didn’t not know how to lead, they were operational rather than strategic) and had never done strategic planning. They felt if it worked for the competition, they should try it too as it would be less risky. Bottom line, they have never done as well as they could have because they are never out in front, they are always behind – copying what everyone else is doing.

I’m not proposing that you should take uncalculated risks in your business by getting out in front of the competition each and every single time. But, with a few best practices – you can find situations where it makes sense for you to lead the marketplace rather than always being the follower. Remember – just because your competition is doing it doesn’t mean it is working or its makes sense for your business.

  • Have a solid strategy in place. If you don’t have a strategy in place (along with a vision for the company) – you really have no idea what to do for your customers rather than to follow the leader (which is your competition). A strategy provides you the ability to evaluate ideas against that strategy. Will an idea presented help you to meet your long term goals and objectives? If yes – set up a project team and invest in the idea. If not – scrap it.
  • Have a process to evaluate opportunities. Every opportunity/idea that presents itself should go through a formal process of evaluation – regardless of who presents the idea/opportunity. As a best practice, consider having a team pulled together (that rotates every year) from all areas of the business to evaluate any new opportunity that is presented. And remember…opportunities must help forward the vision and strategy of the business.
  • Have budget monies available for opportunities. Don’t spend all your cash! Set aside monies for the unexpected great idea that you want to move forward with evaluating, designing, developing and launching.
  • Know your customers. Understand why your customers purchase from you. What are their expectations of the partnership with your company? Regularly surveying and talking with your customers provides you data needed to continue to improve your current products and services and ensure that new products and services offered meet customer needs/expectations.
  • Know the industry, the marketplace and your competition. Where is the industry headed? What is the competition locally, regionally, nationally and globally? Consider performing a SWOT (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) comparing yourself to your top competitors. (See Performing a SWOT Analysis and SWOT Analysis Example.) The more you know about the industry and the marketplace, the better you are able to ensure that your strategic plan will enable the long term survival and growth of your business.

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