You're asking the wrong question.
I still do a bit of consulting as my #sidehustle in the beauty industry. I was on a call with a private equity firm last week and the guy on the other end of the line said… “Ok, I have just one more question … If we wanted to do something to take “competitor X” out of the marketplace, what could we do?”
Them: “Like you know … where is their weakness and how can we capitalize on that to take them down? Is there a key ingredient they use that we could just buy all of and then they couldn’t produce?”
I was kind of stunned. Like … you’re asking the wrong question.
Obviously understanding and addressing competitive threats is important. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of focusing your effort on understanding your consumer and serving them in the best way possible. Spending time, money, and effort focused on eliminating a potential competitive threat to your business as a strategy is a waste of time if your strategy isn’t sound, and rooted in empathy for your consumer. Actually, building a strategy based off of what others are doing isn’t really a strategy. You’ll never win if you’re looking left and right instead of looking straight ahead focused on the value that you can uniquely create for the market. Operating out of fear usually doesn’t end well.
But, as I was thinking about it, there is a much bigger life lesson here.
Just as in business, this applies to us as humans. To be successful in our lives, we too have to look internally at what unique value we can create in the marketplace. What do we bring to the table? Where are our passions? What are our strengths? Where can we have impact? And the hardest question of all, what is our why? We have to be able to answer those questions for ourselves. It’s easy to look at what everyone else is doing, but then you’re trying to live someone else’s best life, not yours. And that’s not very fun.
In my experience, this is an ongoing, iterative process that takes time, self reflection and exploration to truly understand. You don’t just arrive, have it all figured out, and then voila you’re living your best life. I didn’t really dig into and understand any of these questions about myself until my late 30’s. I was too busy trying to be what I thought I was “supposed” to be based on what was happening around me and what other people were doing. I didn’t spend enough time listening to and discovering who I was. Now, in my 40’s I still don’t have it all figured out, but I’m better at making time for staying in tuned to my authentic self. It’s about being honest with myself - being cognizant of where I am, what I’m good at, where I’m struggling, where I get my energy, and where I see I can impact other people. How do you stay in touch with where you are?
We can’t look at what others are doing and try to emulate or take them down. As leaders, as humans, we have to spend the time knowing our value and our worth. Focus on that, and then swing for the fences. There is room for everyone. Let’s do this.