Monday, March 15, 2010

Competitor, Collaborator or Inspiration?

We are so thankful to be surrounded by amazing people everyday. We're talking outgoing, bubbly, kind, professional, detailed, funny, creative, and driven - to just name a few. We are lucky to work with inspired people with big dreams and big ideas... and we would like to think we learn from them all.

Every day, I swear is a learning curve, and today... a new one hit us at Cinnamon. We live in a somewhat small city. The kind of city where everyone knows everyone. For businesses (if you are running one that people generally say good things about) this is a great way to grow and to gain referrals, connections and solid peers. Unfortunately, it also means, the odds are you will run into your competition more often than you may like to.

The question is though, what/who is your competition? Are they companies that have clients you want? Are they making more money? Are they creating a better product? Or are they simply in your field?

After thinking this though, I don't think it really is about money. There are pricey companies that deal with large clients, the ones in between and of course, the small guys for individuals or smaller companies. Sure, eventually, a company might build its size from a small business owner to a large corporation, but for instance, a first year fashion graduate's competition is not Christian Dior. In this case, we're talking inspiration and the same goes for graphic designers. There are resources and companies that I visit on a regular basis; they inspire me every day to be a better designer and business owner. So money in many ways is just too subjective.

I also don't think (funny as it may sound) it has very much with being in the same field. As I said above, Christian Dior is not a competitor for the average fashion designer (and rather an inspiration) and just because you do the same thing, doesn't mean you do it the same way (or want to). Of course, it goes the other way as well - if a fashion designer finds that another fashion designer down the street is not creating work that he/she believes lives up to their standard of design, I would think they would also write them off as competition.

So whats that leave us with?

a) they are making a better product/providing better service
b) they are working with clients you want

These two qualities put together are a pretty sure sign of a competitor and someone you may want to have on your radar. Rather then squashing these people, I am finding it is always better to use that energy to make yourself or your product better. What steps do you need to make this happen and how can you make yourself more visible to the clients you want. Or in some cases, can you collaborate with your competition? In the design field in many cases the smartest way to learn and join them in the rankings is by working directly with them.

Otherwise, (meaning they don't have the above two qualities) is it worth paying attention to? I suppose if someone is going out of their way to say not so nice things in an attempt to bring you down you may want to pay them some attention. However, most likely, it just isn't worth your time. Heathy competition is a good thing, learning from those that do something well is the only way to get better at what you do. Even as I write this it makes me want to look more towards my business plan and standards and how I can continue to grow and make Cinnamon the best it can be.

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