Don't Obsess Over the Competition

It's important to keep an eye on competitors, but don't let it prevent you from finding innovation in your own company.

Over my last 12 years in the Green Industry, I’ve fallen into many traps—the same traps that I told myself and my staff we would never fall into. While there are actually too many to list, the main trap is paying too much attention to my competition.

You can get lost in your competition's business, and your own can suffer from it. Watching what others are doing is OK, if you direct about 2% of your focus toward that. But let’s face it, you are in business because it’s your business, your ideas, your own way of thinking and your own service levels. Nowadays, it's easy to get wrapped around wanting to be our competition. But that can prevent us from doing something stronger and better on our own merit.

There are some things that our competitors do that we can learn from. But we are in each of our own markets, providing our own services, to do the exact opposite. We are there to do that one thing that sets us apart from the rest of the crowd, that one thing that is proprietary to us—and that is "going the extra mile".

I have a company in my market that got so wrapped around what we were doing that its entire portfolio basically walked away from it. That's because the company was more worried about what equipment and trucks we had, who we hired, and this list went on and on. By the time the portfolio wasn’t handled properly, it was way too late. The customers were long gone, and the company began to point the finger at me. But it wasn’t our fault that most of their clients came to us. This competitor's employees and managers constantly talked about us. It was some of the best free marketing ever!

We have never targeted another company's customers. But many have come to us. I later have found out that many times we actually charged 10-15% more. But it doesn't matter because we changed grounds management in our market.

This is a prime example of what paying too much attention to your competitors can do to you. In today's dog-eat-dog world, we as business owners must keep our eyes on the prize—the future and ultimate success of our businesses.