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Read Time: 5 mins

Don’t worry about your competition. Pretty unusual advice to receive for any business owner. To be sure, we need to know some things about our competitors like:

• Who they are
• What products they sell
• Their pricing strategy i.e. cheap or expensive
• Their reputation i.e. after sales service, timeliness, etc.

But this just makes good business sense. Far too often I find small business owners who obsess about every move their competitors make. This obsession often leads to distraction and paralysis as they are not sure whether to match a competitor’s activity or ignore it.

In industries where there is lots of competition, you run the risks of getting serious whiplash as you try to keep an eye on what they are all doing. Let’s be clear, some of your competitor’s activities will prove to be successful. When that happens, that’s your queue to borrow their strategy, provided you have the skills to make it happen, but not before.

Play your own game

Nine times out of ten though, my advice is to completely ignore what the competition is doing and to focus squarely on your own business. In other words, play your own game. What does play your game mean? Well, most us like to think we provide the best service possible to each and everyone of our clients. But do we really? Or, do we simply accept ”good enough” as our performance standard and only do our best once a customer complains?

Think about this for a second. If you were to outline what you consider to be the gold standard of service delivery in your industry, how do you stack up against those benchmarks? Now be honest. Chances are, we probably miss the mark on many and you know what? So do most of your competitors!

Performance standards

Although we talk a good game, do we really do what we say we’re going to do? Do we start when we say we’re going to start? Do we finish when we say we’re going to finish? Do we keep the customer informed throughout the assignment like we said we would? Probably not and why? Because most of us have never set performance standards.

Having performance standards is even more important as we add employees to the organization. As our company grows, we tend to get farther and farther away from the actual work. Where once you were directly involved, you could take corrective action and catch any oversights. Now, you’re relying on others to deliver the end results and you assume they know what your expectations are.

Everybody has their own standards

Statements like “we provide the best customer service” or “we are dependable” are hollow throwaway statements when they’re not backed up by any performance standards. We wrongly assume that our employees know what those words mean but unfortunately, they don’t because everyone has their own definitions and standards. The only way to get everybody on the same page, is by having a clear set of documented standards that outline expectations that are monitored and reviewed regularly.

So, what are some benchmarks or standards that we can put into place to ensure we are doing our best work? Here is a list to get you started and add to once you’re comfortable with the concept

  1. Return phone calls and emails promptly – I had a policy that we returned all client telephone calls immediately or worse case before the day was done. Even, if we couldn’t answer their question immediately, we’d let them know we were on it and when we’d have the answer. Then get back to them when promised. In a subtle way showed them they were important.
  2. Advise clients beforehand of any potential problems that may arise. For clients of my company, if we saw any stumbling blocks to success, we would advise them before beginning the assignment. In these situations, we would try to get them to tweak the parameters. If that was impossible, we typically advised them not to proceed. Why did we take that stand? It’s simple, we knew what it took to execute a successful program and we wanted to avoid marginal programs. It wasn’t worth the grief of explaining after the fact why things didn’t go as they expected. It was a powerful credibility builder when we told clients we didn’t want to spend their money.
  3. Start when you say you will. Granted, things happen that can blow up your scheduling, but more often than not, you probably didn’t leave enough of a buffer between projects for the unexpected. If things go smoothly, then getting permission to start early is a lot more enjoyable than the alternative. If you absolutely must delay the start, give them lots of notice, so they can adjust accordingly.
  4. Advise client immediately, when you encounter unforeseen problems and allow them to make a decision, instead of surprising them at the end with an larger than expected bill. That never goes over well

Too often, we get so enamoured chasing new customers or chasing the competition, that we forget to keep our promises to those customers who entrusted us in the first placed. By establishing company wide performance standards, you will deliver consistent results that make for loyal and profitable customers. I’ll promise you the competition won’t figure out what you’re doing.

Got some other ideas, let me know in the comments below

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3 comments on “SBM #63 – Don’t worry about the competition

  1. Excellent article Greg, thank you for emphasizing how important it is for us to maintain our performance standards.

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