You see, we don’t just believe people are watching us – we know it. We see our own marketing “speak” on our competitor’s websites, we see competitors copying the terms we use and even the layout of things we’ve done. A couple of months ago, we released a unique feature only to hear from our supplier that a competitor had immediately approached them to do the same.
We should be honoured. You know what they say – “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – but, to us, having competitors doing what we’re doing just means that, if we keep the status quo, we’ll blend into “them” crowd.
We’re right to be paranoid. There are a lot of copycats out in the market and it keeps us running – and fast. And it means that we are always looking at ways to do what we do better and differently from the “pack”.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if you’re not suffering from entrepreneurial paranoia, you’re probably not leading, but following.
Watching your competitors too closely, and trying to one-up them, is following rather than leading. You’ll never disrupt a market, or make a huge impact, by copying. Rather than watching what your competitors are doing, you should be thinking about what you can do that hasn’t been done before.
One of any businesses biggest strengths is being able to invent, rather than re-invent. Look at some of the fastest growing businesses around, the Ubers, Airbnbs, Facebooks, LinkedIns and Googles of the world. They haven’t copied someone else, they do something completed different – and they’ve “disrupted” whole industries.
Do they watch what others are doing? Of course. Are they consumed by it, making sure that they have the same features, trying to one-up competitors? Absolutely not. They’re too busy leading the charge.
They sit around tables and ask the “what if” questions. They are driven by innovation. And they’re driven by a healthy dose of entrepreneurial paranoia. They’re not worried about who’s copying them. But they are paranoid. Just enough to think that someone, somewhere might be – right at this very moment – designing something better than them.
And, for a true entrepreneur, that’s a scary thought!!