Competition week, part 1

Over the weekend I listened to a very interesting interview with Susan Rogers. Susan is a recording engineer who worked very closely with Prince during his rise to fame. Here’s something she said about his being based in north Minneapolis, which is not exactly known as a national hotbed of musical innovation:“He was so alone that he created his own competition. He created Time, and Vanity Six, so that it would seem that there was more of him.”Isn’t this fascinating? The idea of creating your own competition to legitimize or amplify what you’re doing. I suppose the business lesson there is that being the absolutely only one doing what you’re doing is at least lonely, and perhaps not a great way to get the attention of a market.For another example of this, try seeding a Pandora station with almost any song by Tom Waits. The other artists and songs that Pandora’s algorithm chooses to play in that station usually sound very little like Tom Waits. He’s just too singularly unique for even Pandora to find musical “competition”.Anyway, thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts about competition with me in my little micro-survey last week. I’ll spend this week echoing back to you what you shared along with some of my own thoughts on the matter.ImageTo start, most of you said you’re not concerned about competition. 58.1% of the 31 respondents said, basically, “NOPE! Competition doesn’t concern me.” 25.8% said yes, it does concern you, and the rest chose some other middle-ground answer.There’s clearly no “right” or “wrong” answer to this question.In my work with folks who are deciding how to specialize, we look at the competition, primarily to make sure there is at least some. As the old saying goes, “the pioneers get the arrows; the settlers get the land.” A complete lack of competition generally means there’s no demand for whatever idea you’ve cooked up. Sure, there are exceptions where unusually prescient timing helps you take advantage of an opportunity before others do and unusually good execution helps you turn it into a great market position despite being first to market. But most of us can build great businesses with much less risk than that. Being sure there’s some existing competition is a de-risking tool when specializing.But being aware of the competition is a different thing than being concernedabout it or outright fearing it.In coming posts this week I’ll dig deeper into your responses to explore more of those nuances.Want help getting better competition? You heard me right. If your competition is undercutting you on price, you’re probably a generalist working in a space that’s becoming commoditized. I have a book that can help. Identifying a strong market position is step #1. Learn how here: