01/28/2013 04:16 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2013

Competition: I Hate You, I Love You

It's true! You'd be nothing without your competition. It is just a fact of life. Amazon is a better company because of Barnes and Noble. Apple is stronger because of Microsoft. Zappos is even more amazing because of the thousands of shoe companies it competes with today. You and your business are wiser, bolder, and tougher because of that pesky company down the street, or even a world away, selling the same product you sell and pining for the same customers you crave. Without competition most businesses would be average. Embrace your competition and thank your lucky stars for those irritating pains in the butt, here's why:

Learn From Their Mistakes: Without competition in business you would have only your own mistakes to learn from. It might take you twice as long to achieve your goals if you had to make all the mistakes yourself. It is imperative that you study your competition closely. Talk to the people that no longer work for your competitors, especially the ones that now work for you, and learn as much as you can about your rival. What software did they try that didn't work? What advertising campaigns were a bust? Make it your job to know and understand where your competition screwed up so that you don't make the same mistake. Too many businesses spend all of their time breaking down and trying to learn from their own mistakes. The businesses that rise to the top are the ones that not only study their own errors, but they leverage their competition by studying what it is they did wrong as well. This results in less mistakes and a quicker climb to the top.

Learn From Their Strengths: Great chefs build off of recipes that already work. They tweak the ingredients ever so slightly to create a masterpiece. Great business owners do the same. I will be the first to admit that my competitors do a lot of things right. I make it my job to learn their strengths so that I can tweak the recipe to make it even better. Seven years ago a strong competitor came into my market and one of their defining value propositions was their family culture. Sure, my business had a great culture, but not that sense of family that many sales people crave when seeking out a great firm to work for. I made it my mission to better define the family culture at my own company and to better promote it to sales people seeking a family atmosphere to work within. Today my company culture is one of a kind. Our recipe works. Without my competition it may have taken many more years to determine just the right mix of ingredients.

Momentum: In 2011 I ran my first full marathon. I had run many half marathons but this was the first full one. By mile twenty I had an unbearable shooting pain up my legs and I just wanted to quit. Do you know what kept me moving? I didn't stop because I could hear the footfalls of someone right behind me. I have no idea who this person was and I wasn't running the race to win. For those last six miles I was moving just so as not to let the person behind me get ahead. Often times our competition offers us this same type of momentum. We keep moving forward everyday so as not to let the competition get in front. Without rivals there is no doubt we could move ahead, but with them we move faster, we never slow down, and we certainly don't stop even when the pain is unbearable.