I can remember two egregious blatant acts of pure plagiarism that really upset me at the time, and the frustration still lingers many years later.
In their desperate attempt to beat our company, our competitors resorted to copying us.
The first case dates back to 2010. One of our main competitors literally copied one of our blog posts and reposted the blog on their website. In the midst of my attempt to get them to remove the blog content, they then subsequently copied at least a dozen of our company’s primary web pages—verbatim, typos and all—and simply replaced our company name with theirs. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they inadvertently left our company name in the meta description and meta keywords. They eventually removed the content when I publicly shamed them in a subsequent blog post.
The bitter feelings didn’t end there, though, as the owner of the competitive firm subsequently disparaged both me and my company by telling our customers mistruths both about me, and our company.
That’s not the way to beat your competitor.
In another, and maybe an even more egregious example of plagiarism, one of our primary independent contractors, who we hired for at least 30 hours a week and worked with for many years, decided to open his own competitive firm. Up until that time, he did have a few of his own customers but operated his business from his home. I was advised that this individual had opened an office, so I scheduled an unannounced visit when I knew he would be there.
I knew immediately upon walking into his new office that there was a problem. What did I see?
- Not only did he buy the same office furniture, but the boardroom table, carpet, and setup were exactly the same as ours
- The boardroom was even arranged in a similar fashion
- He had customer letters and creative writing on the walls done in the same manner as us
- Their presentation binders had the same designs and content that we created
- The technicians wore our same color and style of golf shirts
Then I found out afterward, they deployed the same customer quoting and CRM software that we used. It looked as if we had commissioned a franchise, but sadly we didn’t.
Understand your competitive advantage
What’s your business’s competitive advantage, sometimes known as the “secret sauce” of your business?
Does your business even have a competitive advantage?
Finding, understanding, and leveraging your competitive advantage is probably one of the main keys to growing your business. Unfortunately, uncovering the secret sauce can be as difficult as the quest to find the Holy Grail.
If your company has developed an anti-aging pill and has a worldwide patent on the pill, then that is, of course, your secret sauce. But for the rest of us who have businesses in competitive industries with potentially low barriers to entry, it becomes even more important to understand, and leverage, your competitive advantage.
As my company’s former 27-year president, I too spent a lot of time working on our competitive advantage, which was, and still is, innovation.
From the very start of business in 1991, I was always determined to look for new products, new ideas, new marketing techniques that would differentiate us in an otherwise very crowded market.
My innovation strategy worked.
It wasn’t any one thing that propelled us to the top of the market, but a series of many moves made consistently over many years that, when compounded, produced amazing growth results. Our continuous innovation push also made it difficult for our competitors to beat us.
Our company didn’t win every account. Far from it. But we were, and still are, a formidable competitor.
To Win and Grow Your Business, You Need a Secret Sauce
What is your business’s secret sauce?
As I’ve explained, our secret sauce was innovation.
Your secret sauce can’t be copying your competition. If you do, you’ll always be behind. You’re never going to get ahead.
My mindset was that everything could be improved. Everything. Our products, website, internal processes, people, and especially customer service.
So how do you adapt your mindset from one of a company that’s just in business to one that is winning in business?
Understand Your Business’s Core Expertise
What does your business do?
Find your expertise, and then double down on that expertise. Understand everything there is to know about the product and/or service. Study it. Study your competitors (don’t copy them), study businesses in adjacent industries, and then study businesses in other sectors. Whatever it is you do, you need to understand the products and services better than anyone else in the industry.
Train Your Staff
It isn’t good enough that you know what your business does. Your staff needs to understand as well.
You need to be constantly training and improving.
Whether it’s certifications, guest speakers, courses, or self-study, everyone needs to be constantly improving. Work with your staff on building a culture of continuous improvement.
Build Improvement Into Everything You Do
Challenge yourself, and your staff, to improve every single day. You need to develop the mindset that nothing is ever good enough and that everything can be improved. Whether it’s the way you process invoices, the method you do your collections, your website, staff training, products, or the way your business provides customer service, every facet of your business can be improved upon.
The cycle of improvement should extend not just for the leader but for each member of the company. Every employee can improve their processes in everything they do.
Keep in mind, it’s important to remember your core competency. I’m not suggesting that you should constantly take on new products, or change things for the sake of change, but you need to develop an inquisitive and change-oriented mindset where you appreciate that the status quo is never good enough.
Now remember, whatever you do, winning in business doesn’t mean copying your competition, it means being better than them. You know you’re winning when you’re not looking back at what your competitors do, but your competitors are copying and trying to be more like you.
Before you go, I think you might be interested in reading this post titled: Do you Have the Most Important Trait Required to Become a Millionaire?
And here’s another: How to Start All Negotiations Like a Champ. You Must Know This One Thing
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