Lesson Learned: Study your competition and take them seriously.
This blog post is part of a series of leadership lessons that I have learned from 40 years in tech. Each post is a quick read that covers one lesson.
When you’ve had some success, It’s tempting to make competitive analysis a self-gratifying, ego-reinforcement exercise where you revel in where your competitors suck and how awesome you are. Especially when you are the incumbent and they are the upstart. Don’t fall into that trap. I have participated in this kind of thinking, and while it is fun and feels good in the moment, it is at best a waste of time and at worst harmful to your business.
In one company, the only time we really discussed our competitors was when we talked about their poor quality or lack of features compared to us. But by not taking them seriously, we let them win deals that should have been ours and, in one case, lost one market completely. Instead, identify what your competition does best, and where they are innovating compared to you. And then replicate and improve upon the ideas that make the most sense for you (providing you are not infringing on their IP). It worked for Facebook and Walmart so it can work for you. Mark Zuckerberg is a pretty smart guy and so was Sam Walton.