At business schools all over the world, the best and brightest are consistently told to focus outwards, outwards, outwards on the competition. That only through constant analysis of those who stand against you can success happen internally; that by breaking down and taking apart the rest of the market share will come success and financial reward.
Put this in the context of any sporting event – say the 100 metres sprint at the Olympics.
What would happen if Usain Bolt ran with his head turned to the side watching the person in the lane next to him?
I don’t think he would be known as the fastest man alive. I think he would be known as the man who fell over and seriously injured himself, and cursed himself soundly for the rest of his life.
Yes, it is important to keep an eye on what is happening within your business arena. It would be ridiculous to not pay attention to your competitors. But in a world that is rapidly asking for more and more in terms of brand authenticity and a genuine message and realness, your biggest competition should be you.
The most successful global businesses – Google, Apple, Pixar – have at their heart a very basic tenet. They see that in order to succeed, they need to improve against their own benchmarks; not necessarily those of their competitors. As Steve Jobs so wisely said, Apple was and is not Sony – Apple is Apple – and when they realised that truth, that was when they really started to fly.
Take a look at your own business. Are you aiming for a gold medal in your own right? Or are you so busy looking in the next lane, obsessing about what other businesses are doing, that you will end up with silver – or no medal at all?
Set your own gold medal standards. Give yourself three key areas in which to achieve. If you made a profit last financial year – aim for a more substantial profit this year. Look at ways to improve staff retention and involvement in policy and decision making. Turn that eagle eye inwards, and make positive changes for the long-term.
When it comes down to it, you are your own biggest business asset. Make sure you aren’t wasting your skills and momentum looking sidelong to what ends up as the irrelevant past – instead of straight ahead, arms pumping, to your own successful future.
And breaking the finishing line tape in first place.