Keeping Your Eyes on Your Own Paper

Oh competitors… you can’t live with them and you can’t wish them away to a magical land far, far away. We all have competitors in our jobs and in our life. It is a part of life.

We could drown keeping a constant eye on what our competitors are doing. We could also veer away from what it is we do best trying to keep up with them, we could add services we don’t excel at, we could lose our focus.

Trust me… I could spend all day, every day online gasping, complaining and whining about what other people in my industry are doing, but who does that really help? Not me. What many of us need to do is think back to our school days when Ms. Ross would say ‘Amanda keep your eyes on your OWN paper’ but maybe you didn’t have Ms. Ross (lucky) and maybe your name isn’t Amanda.

Match your competitors but don’t follow them – Something makes you unique from even your closest competitor. Is it customer service, like Zappos? Is it that your employees are more dedicated? Do you have a unique software? Whatever it is, recognize that your differences are also your strengths. If you spend all your time watching what your competitor is doing and then following them, soon you will be way off the path you started on. Sure, you can be as good as them at some things, but be better at the things that make you unique.

You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going,
because you may not get there. – Yogi Berra

Use proper ‘Netiquette’ when interacting with your shared space online – With sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn it can seem impossible to ignore what other people are doing. When you do stumble across a blog, interview, post or update that irks you, it is usually best to leave it alone. If there is something posted about your company or service, you should consult your social media policy on how to handle reactions to content.

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. – Lou Holtz

Focus on what people are saying about you, not about them – Trust me, I know how frustrating it can be to see other people talking about your competitor and not about you. Jumping in on the conversation can be tacky though. Pay more attention to what people are saying about you and react and reward them as necessary. Set up things like Google Alerts to get notified when your company is mentioned. Social networking sites got you down? Tired of seeing your competition being tweeted about and to? Here is one thing I have learned – sometimes some people are better at Twitter than they are at business. Ignore it and focus on what cool things you have going on instead. Do you have a Twitter account? Take a minute to review the ‘Lists‘ people have categorized you under. I think Twitter lists are a great dipstick to see how people view your content.

Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope. – Josh Billings

Measure against yourself and your goals – We need to stop upholding ourselves to other people’s expectations. We need to measure our own success against ourselves first. I recently read a great blog post, Run Your Own Race, that really ironed this out for me. As many of you know, I recently became a “runner”. My first goal was a half marathon. I run very slow because I never want to run out of gas by mile 6 or 12. I felt pressure to run faster because whenever you tell someone you ran a race they ask ‘what was your time?’ It took me until just recently to not care about telling people my time. I am running these races for my health, to spend time with friends and mostly, so I don’t go insane. It doesn’t matter how fast. It just matters that I am doing it. The same goes for my work. I measure the things that are important to reaching Hall’s goals. Not just measuring all the things that we are able to measure.

If you’re looking sideways all the time, you’re very likely to miss the opportunities, paths, and people that are right in front of you. – Amber Naslund, Brass Tack Thinking

It is a big world out there. We should all be able to coexist, but too often I see people who are obsessed with what their competition is doing. Remember the things that make you different and focus on those. By keeping your eyes on your own paper you will find opportunities that are inline with your strengths and goals. By copying the other guy, you are straying from what it is you have set out to do. Know what makes your competitors different from you as well. It may not hurt to recognize what they flourish in too and if there is a project that is better suited for them, are you comfortable enough to hand it off to them?