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Michelle Shemilt Headshot

How to View Your Competitors as Inspiration

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One month after I launched my e-commerce site, a competitor launched a very similar product. I had developed a new concept clothing line where there is little to no competition, so needless to say when I saw this other company fear-based thoughts started to set in -- including doubt over how good my product is, sleepless nights, and general thoughts of failure and doom. As one should always do with their competitors, I ordered some of the product and as soon as it arrived a wave of relief washed over me as I comforted myself in the notion that I preferred the quality, comfort and fit of my product line to theirs. As soon as I realized that I was wishing negative thoughts about another company, I had to give my head a shake and reframe my perspective. As an entrepreneur I have always believed in supporting other entrepreneurs, and I have always held the perspective that we live in an abundant world where there is enough to go around. And yet when I was faced with this head-on I retreated into a lack mentality, thinking only one of us could survive.

Leaders, innovators and creators change the world by inspiring and looking to the world around them for inspiration, not by putting down, wishing ill and trying to prevent improvement. What if instead of seeing our competitors as competition in the sense that only one of us can win, we view them as sources of inspiration and as a challenge to improve ourselves?

There are 7 billion people on this planet. We live in a society entrenched in consumerism. There is enough to go around. When I look at my own spending habits I see this through and through. Having a clothing line I look first to my closet and see a plethora of different brands across my entire wardrobe. Looking at my bookshelf, I read books on a handful of topics but by a variety of different authors. In everything I consume from the food I eat, to the clothes I wear, to the blogs I follow there is variety. Moral of the story? I'll say it again, there is enough to go around.

So, how do we actually do this? Here are three things to think about when lack mentality starts to take over:

1) Bill Gates is Microsoft. Steve Jobs is Apple. As Richard Branson is Virgin, Sara Blakely is Spanx. YOU are your brand. Another company can steal your concept, your product, theoretically they could even steal your company name and yet they still cannot steal your brand because they won't have you. They don't have your vision, your mission, your intuition. It is your brand that connects with your customer, it is your vision that inspires them to buy, it is not the product in and of itself.

2) Be clear on your vision -- on WHY you do what you do, then even if someone steals everything of yours, it will not be authentic because no two companies have the exact same vision and mission for their company. Every company is trying to change the lives of their customers in their own unique way. They do this through their products, their branding, and the community they build around themselves. Trying to "copy" this from someone else would mean that you are always two steps behind and the inauthentic nature of your motives would be a turn off to your customer.

3) Lastly, the idea that someone wants to steal everything you are doing in its entirety comes from a centered place. Most entrepreneurs are excited about the change they are going to make in the world. They are fuelled by their vision and committed to their mission. Yes, they may take inspiration from what you do but never will the outcome be the same because it will be adopted and adapted by their perspective and intuition to fit their mission and their vision.

What if your only competition was your own company? What if you measured your performance based on how much better you can get today than you were yesterday? And what if instead of trying to prevent your competition from innovation, growth and development you cheered them on? The more they grow and develop the more inspiration there is for you to work from (and vice versa!) and the better off we all are as leaders, innovators and creators, and more importantly the more effectively we can all serve our customers.