A number of my business interests have been suffering lately.
I've attributed declining sales to a number of different factors, one of which is rising competition.
Market corners that were previously up for grabs are becoming increasingly overcrowded and noisy (in many niches). It's harder for an online entrepreneur to be heard now than ever before.
So what's the natural response to a sudden increase in competitors (especially in a niche that previously had very little competition)?
You start telling yourself:
I need to compete with and outsmart these new competitors.
About 10 years ago, I ran a coffee chain in Ireland - I opened two stores in Cork and then Limerick.
I remember when we first opened our Limerick store in a space where one coffee shop already existed and its owner had been there for a long time without any competition.
I'll never forget the day when word got out that we were opening up right beside his store.
He felt threatened.
The owner traveled down to my other store and started abusing me to my face and aggressively taking photos of our merchandise and pricing.
It was obviously the first time he'd felt directly threatened by a new competitor.
His immediate response was to try and intimidate his competition (didn't work!) and then ultimately it became a game of competing over selling essentially the same product.
I don't know if he's still in business now but it wouldn't surprise me if he folded.
Competition kills entrepreneurial creativity
I've found myself getting stuck in the competition mindset trap lately.
Even as an authority with a massive audience, you end up competing over scraps with upstarts.
This takes your eyes off your original mission and purpose (everything that got you to where you are in the first place), and you run around in circles trying to put out small fires.
I had two epiphanies recently:
- God reminded me to focus my energy on serving.
- I stumbled upon Peter Thiel's famous point that "competition is for losers".
When you focus on competing with (beating or destroying threats), you plateau and never move forward.
You can never stop competition.
You just forever play catch-up until you run out of energy.
Business should focus on serving needs rather than competing for prominance
I'm convinced this came straight from God.
I was praying about the direction things are headed and it was as though God reminded me that the reason I'm where I am (the success I've had in recent years), is because I only ever initially cared about serving others.
My business interests were born out of genuine passion and love for what I do.
But over time, you get lazy and business becomes your sole motivation.
So I've begun to look at my various entrepreneurial pursuits and ask:
What can I offer for free with no financial incentive?
It's an amazing and very liberating feeling.
Stop competing and start monopolizing
Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal) has a famous line:
Competition is for losers.
He basically says that he refuses to invest in anything unless it's a creative monopoly.
In other words - if it's a restaurant trying to compete in a big city with thousands of other restaurants, then forget it.
But something like Facebook, which has a creative monopoly on its type of social media, is different.
This is not only wise for investors.
Entrepreneurs who get caught up in competing for a voice are going literally nowhere.
It's the entrepreneurs who bring something totally unique to the table that succeed in the long run.
And competing really is for losers.
If you find yourself trying to compete for prominance, you've already lost.
Be aware of competition but not motivated by it
So I believe these two epiphanies go hand-in-hand.
Operate from a desire to serve your audience (genuinely) and have a creative monopoly over your own unique solution to their problem/s.
This is where I started in the beginning and why I became successful (without realizing it at the time).
It's a more enjoyable, satisfying and stress-free way to operate a business too.