Competition is a given in business, it’s an essential part of our capitalist society, to the point of it being regulated by our government. However, the way in which you as a business owner approach and deal with it, can make or break your business.
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Whether you like it or not, owning a business is playing a game and winning that game, however you define winning, starts with your attitude. Having the right attitude is the impetus behind successfully keeping your competition at bay. As restaurant franchisors at Costa Vida, we play within the fresh-Mexican fast casual dining category. We’re surrounded by some big players and we knew this going into it. But we never let this fact stop us from believing in our brand or what we’re doing.
Here are few other things that we have learned along the way:
No. 1: Be different, but not unrecognizable.
Being unique is important – but it’s also a double edge sword. There is such a thing as being too unique. Don’t feel like because there are other people out there doing similar things, you cannot do those same things better than them. It’s most important that your customer or client is able to identify what you are and who you are, and then connects your goods and/or services favorably to your name.
So if you’re an ice cream vendor, don’t add burgers to the menu just to be different. Simply, focus on doing a better job of selling your ice cream than your competition.
No. 2: Find a niche, within your niche.
Find ways to stand out within your industry. This is the other side of being unique. You need your customers and clients to come to you and not your competition, one way to do this is to be known for something. There are many things you can control within in your business, so whether it’s your exemplary customer service or your fresh guacamole – be known for something.
No 3: Diversify and strengthen common goods or services.
You and your competition may have many commonalities but that doesn’t mean that you cannot create a difference. Make a list of the common goods/services that you and your competition offer, find an item or service that you can do better or add an item that your competition doesn’t have and strengthen the product until you are the best.
No 4: Be yourself and focus on protecting your identity.
Don’t define your business by the industry you’re in or the by the other players that are in it. Your business, much like you, is an individual – there may be others like it out there, but they don’t have you running the company. So create an identity for yourself and then don’t stray from it, base every decision you make as a business owner on whether it hurts, helps, or validates the company’s identity.
No. 5: Know your customers and why they come to you.
Knowing your customers is as important as knowing your business. The better you know the customer, the easier it will be to find other like-minded customers and continue satisfying the ones you already have. This goes beyond knowing your key demographics. Figure out what made them come to the business initially, why did they open your door when they could have gone around the corner to your competition? Figuring this out will help your further define your business and ultimately show you what you need to focus on.
Sean Collins and his partner Dave Rutter have grown Costa Vida from at one time just a 13-location restaurant, into a fully operational franchise with 49 locations (and 217 locations in the pipeline).