Many companies feel pressured to adjust their business models, products, services, or pricing structures based on what everyone else in their market is doing.

“We don’t have a choice!” they say. “Our competitors are doing it, so we have to do it.”

But do you really?

Just ask your mom

“If so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you do that, too?” – All Moms ever

As much as you may have rolled your eyes at this as a kid, this advice has never been more on point.

If you run your business thinking you have to do everything your competitors are doing and offer everything they’re offering, you are, in effect, letting your competitors determine your business model. More importantly, you’re letting them shape your company values. And these things could send your organization into a downward freefall.

The question isn’t whether or not you need to follow the pack. The question is how can you live out your core values and compete effectively in your market, even if you’re doing something different?

Father knows best

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” – Dads everywhere

You may have heard this during a stern dad lecture or two, possibly before being grounded for the week. But let’s just admit it. This fatherly nugget of wisdom is legit.

Mimicking your competition isn’t a solid business plan. Not only does it have no soul, it’s 100% reactive. Someone else has done it, so now you are doing it. Playing follow the leader severely limits creative thinking and stifles any real innovation that could be happening.

Successful businesses are on the leading edge of their industries. Not the following edge. Playing copycat will keep you constantly on your heels— and at the back of the line.

If it was easy, everyone would do it

Ugh. Remember this one? You probably heard if from an auntie or uncle, and shrugged it off accordingly. But dang if those folks weren’t full of wisdom and experience!

Following the crowd is taking the easy way out. It’s much harder to blaze your own trail. And much more rewarding.

If your goal is to be the same as every competing company in your industry, that is exactly how potential customers will see you. Because there is nothing that makes you different, there is no reason to choose you over one of the many other providers.

Saying the same things, doing the same things, and maintaining the same business model isn’t the path to growth. Or even sustainability. At the end of the day, you’ll be working harder and harder with less result.

Not only are you in constant reaction mode, you’ve molded yourself after someone else, which means your story isn’t really your own. And today’s consumers are all about the story.

Once upon a time…

Businesses could simply open their doors and people would show up. Not anymore.

Consumers now have an infinite number of choices. Companies that deviate from traditional models are often the ones seeing the greatest success. Especially when they tell a story that appeals to their customers on many different levels. If you’ve been looking to your competitors for inspiration, it’s time to step out of that box and create a new narrative. One that’s true to you.

Who said you have to run your company like everyone else? Certainly not your grandma. She’s a finicky shopper. And she knows better.

Be the leader your dog thinks you are

As far as clichés go, this is a newer one. But it works. Because your dog is extremely loyal, and will follow you just about anywhere. (Caveat: Even Fluffy knows better than to jump off that proverbial bridge.)

Think about your favorite business. The brand you’d follow anywhere. You know, that one that if they suddenly ceased to exist, you might just shed some real, live tears. What made you fall in love with them, and what makes you continue to stay connected?

Is it because they’re just like the other guys? Is it their “sameness” that inspires you? Heck, no!

It’s time to stop worrying about what your competition is doing and define your organization on your own terms.

  • What drives you to do what you do?
  • What values does your company hold dear?
  • How are you demonstrating those values to your team, your customers, and your community?
  • Are you weaving them into your business model and decision making?

Create a true, genuine, and unique story that appeals to your buyers and gives them a new way of comparing you to the plethora of choices and providers out there.

Now you’re not following the leader. Now you are the leader.


Photo by Piotr Marcinski 

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook