Your Competition Isn’t Who You Think It Is

In developing a SWOT analysis, business owners are taught to identify and evaluate the venture’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Often, these entrepreneurs detail what they know about the competitors, and devise plans to upstage, or eliminate, the threat to the company.

Edge out the competition
Edge out the competition

But, what if your competition isn’t who you think it is?

I am not trying to diminish the importance of knowing which companies provide similar products and services in your city, or online, and how your company can prevail as the leader in the industry. Of course, the savvy – and successful – entrepreneur needs to know these details. My focus is on a potential threat you probably never even thought about as a competitor; but, one who could ostensibly hijack your brand, big ideas, and business.

A few months ago, while visiting my hometown, I decided to have a leisurely coffee at a large chain eatery. During my visit, I was exposed to a rather loud and lively conversation during which the main speaker talked about how she gave advice and insight to a local resident running for office. She also shared some additional inside information about the machinations of the local campaign process, the perceived successes and failures, and then predicted that the person probably wouldn’t win.

As I sit here enjoying a wonderful coffee while writing this post, at a different eatery in a different city, I am on the sidelines of a conversation between a web designer and company owner, who wants to gain the advantage over her competition. As they discuss unique website visits, preferred key words to entice visitors, and other strategies, I wonder if business owners realize that discussing truly sensitive information, such as client data, unique processes, and marketing strategy, can potentially have an adverse impact on their companies, if the wrong person listens at the right time.

Today, staff meetings, exploratory assignations with potential partners, and job interviews often occur not at the office, but in open environments, like the local coffee house or restaurant. It is only natural to raise our voices to be heard over the din in a crowded restaurant. Unfortunately, the result is that these folks often speak in tones that make innocent diners eavesdroppers. My solution when encountering this situation is to put on my earphones and listen to music, blocking out the noise, and keeping my eyes on my own work, so to speak.

What about those who continue to listen to gain information? These potential competitors could have a detrimental impact on the business, which will likely never know about it, until it’s too late.

Have you ever experienced this situation? Leave a reply below.


Kesi Stribling, Editor, Ask The Strategist
Kesi Stribling, Editor, Ask The Strategist

DISCLAIMER: ASK THE STRATEGIST is a blog that highlights information on business, entrepreneurship, careers and the workplace, health, community, and women. Any content or advice dispensed through Ask The Strategist is solely for informational and entertainment purposes. Never miss ASK THE STRATEGIST blog posts! Have them delivered to your inbox by subscribing.