... where visionaries, game changers, and challengers discuss business models
Big stuff is made of “competitive analysis” in the business schools and for larger businesses. The idea is to analyze your competitors to determine your comparative advantages as well as their weaknesses. Then, act accordingly because there is only a limited number of dollars out there and if they get them before you – you go hungry.
For solopreneurs and small businesses this “zero-sum” game just doesn’t apply. In many ways, it is often the reverse in that small businesses should group together to become more attractive to their customers and/or partner up as much as possible. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you went shopping in a certain area because “that’s where all the clothing stores are” and you knew the price and variety was the best? Ancient and modern markets are based on the same idea and the famous guilds of medieval times were not only associations of solopreneurs, they even gathered together to sell their wares and services. They might have called themselves “artisans” or “craftsmen” but in their heart of hearts they were solopreneurs :-).
So, if competition is not lurking out there to pick your pocket, what is its importance to a solopreneur? Above all, competitors are there to learn from – but in a positive way.
The idea of groups of small businesses gathered together and selling to groups of customers is the basis of “market economics” or capitalism as we call it today. The idea that large businesses are innovative is a load of crap (pardon my language :-)). Small businesses innovate because they can see what their competitors are doing and either copy it or improve upon it. They can do this because they literally can “see” their competitors – sometimes right across the aisle in a market – sometimes down the street. Big business can’t.
The advice I give to many of my clients who are trying to bring out the next great idea or figure out how to launch their product is to go online and steal the ideas of the other guy. There are no original thoughts in business, just a repackaging of older thoughts and ideas. Competition is your friend because it allows you to innovate and get better. Not unlike the guilds of ancient times or even Darwin’s finches, understanding your environment and adapting to it through innovation or evolution is your best approach.