One of the first things I was told to do when I was starting out was to check out “the competition”. What are others in your market offering and what makes you unique in that market? What is going to be the thing that makes you stand out amongst the crowd? What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
What I don’t like about this question is that it implies that there is not enough room for them and I. Competition by its very nature pits one against the other. For me to be right, you mustn’t be. There is your way or my way. There is nothing in between nor is there enough room to be in there together, sharing the same space.
I got so caught up in this when I first started my business. I got caught up in discovering this one particular thing that was going to make me stand out from the rest… yet I was at a stage where I wasn’t equipped to discover it yet.
What I realised is that only in the exploring was I going to become the unique thing that everyone was talking about.
There is so much pressure to be aware of yourself and who you are in business, yet at times this cannot be forced. Rather, it needs to be a natural unfolding. The other thing is, it is transient. You’ll find that it actually is ever evolving and very rarely stays the same. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, the whispers of change will begin again.
And when we set off on a search to find that unique thing, it implies we’re inadequate to start with, taking our focus off the very things that we possess already– our unique combination of qualities and traits that make us unique as an individual, as a human being. Doesn’t that already set us apart from others?
So, here are my suggestions for staying sane when you’re starting out and attempting to make yourself ‘stand out’ from the crowd;
- Take an honest inventory of the person that you are – what is truly valuable, unique and special about you as an individual? Leave out the application to your business, just for now.
- Take all these qualities and make sure you employ them within your business, authentically and honestly. Do not attempt to avoid them, diminish them or worst of all, compare them to your “competition”. This is about you and your nature. This will become the personality of your business, if you like. For example, if you like to dye your hair pink – for crying out loud dye your hair pink. (Yes I’m giving a big heave ho to people who think this is unprofessional. If that’s you, do it. There’ll be clients who completely dig this about you. If you pretend, clients pick up on that too.)
- Take steps and try things. You honestly will not know exactly who you are in business until you are actually in business. Sitting behind the desk and planning without actually doing is counter intuitive to discovering your unique self. Don’t discount planning, but don’t discount doing either.
- Competitors or partners? If there are people in your space that are doing great things, similar to you, partner with them. This doesn’t mean you lose your identity. You can remain separate if that’s what you want. But it’s fun to experiment and try new things with others, fostering relationships and expanding your community at the same time.
- Finally, accept change as it comes to you. Build in parameters to remain flexible. People are re-branding and re-structuring all the time. It’s a melting pot of experience and ideas that will see you evolve and grow across much iteration. Embrace it. Love it. Expect it.
I’ll leave you with a favourite quote of mine by Erica Cook, “I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.”
PS. If you like what I have to say or think someone else could benefit from this humble little blurb, feel free to ‘like it’ or ‘share it’