It’s natural to compare yourself to others. Business schools, athletics coaches, and even your parents encourage you to “know your competition”. But what exactly is a competitor? Can another business owner, even one with a similar concept, truly be your competition? Think about it–no one runs their business precisely the way you run yours. No one works with clients in exactly the same manner as you do. There is only one you. “Competitors” might get close to replicating you, but they will always fall short in some way.
We, as a culture, fear the competitor. We automatically assume that their success takes away from ours. And it is simply not true. Couldn’t it just as easily mean you will be more successful? That what you uniquely offer is just the thing that a potential client or customer prefers? Be careful when benchmarking your progress by using someone else’s standards.
A good friend recently bought a franchise in the same business as another friend. There was some mild concern because they have different approaches to their operations. I assured her that this is completely natural and does not mean they cannot both succeed, and we dove in for a good brainstorm.
Franchises succeed in part because they have systemized a lot of the day-to-day processes and have therefore taken some of the guesswork out of the set-up. Yet, like any business, their true successes lie in the business managers–the ones who execute the plans. Among the keys to a manager’s success is awareness of his or her unique characteristics, and the ability to mold these qualities into unique products or services that create sales. Right? Thus, there is no one right way to manage a business.
My friend and I identified a list of factors that will determine her success in her new business venture. The list is not all-inclusive, but it’s a great start:
- Individual goals for the business
- Visions relating to the business; how it fits into both short-term and long-term personal plans
- Dependence on the business for life-sustaining income
- Geographic location
- Sales team
- Product quality
- Customer service
- Community involvement
In short, trust yourself. It’s good to know where others are and what is working for them. However, there is more than one guru in the world and in every industry. I know I am not the only holistic, integrative lawyer. My approach isn’t what everyone wants, and thank goodness for that! I couldn’t provide the level of service that I desire, if I was trying to get every available client. Nor could my friends. And that is how both of them were able to operate franchises with overlapping markets.
Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a New York City attorney and mediator who focuses on keeping people out of court and building their conflict resolution skills, especially in business and employment disputes. Her holistic, integrative approach to conflict resolution draws from her experience as a human resources supervisor and minor league sports agent, as well as a trial attorney. She is a 2001 graduate of the State University of New York Buffalo Law School trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).