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You have a brilliant idea. It’s a winner—you’re sure of it. You’ve told your friends, purchased the domain name, and written a business plan. But before you can take the next step, you discover that another company is already moving forward with a similar idea. Now what? Should you quit? Complain? Crumble?

Though it’s easy to feel defeated, let’s not to be too hasty. What if Richard Branson had come across British Airways and decided that he’d best not launch an airline? I, for one, would have been very sorry to miss Virgin Airlines come in and change the game.

The reality is, competitors will always exist—no matter what you do. So, rather than approach competition with dread, you should view your competitors as the impetus for innovation and fuel to do things differently (and better!). To help change your mindset, let’s bust some common myths about how to view and handle competition.

 

Myth #1: Ideas Are Original

Let’s start by clearing up this juicy piece of fiction. Truth be told, there are very few truly original ideas. This may sound depressing at first, but it’s actually very liberating. Once you realize the world is teeming with interesting nuggets of ideas just waiting to be infused with your own twists and insights, you can stop waiting for that cartoon-like light bulb moment—and start creating.

Think about it: Ideas don’t usually pop into your head out of nowhere—they often build on previous strokes of genius (yours or others’) or reinvent an existing idea in a new context. Even Newton’s legendary Law of Gravitation was the result of building on a combination of two of Galileo’s theorems: the Law of Inertia and the Law of Elliptical Path. The point of this is to say: Competition is inevitable—it’s how you deal with it that really counts.

 

Myth #2: Similarities Matter

With that misconception out of the way, let’s talk about what to do when you inevitably spy a competitor who’s already launched “your” idea. First, stay cool—resist the urge to wail about how unfair it is, and instead, define and sharpen what makes you different. Regardless of your industry, there should be at least one thing your company does with a little more something—more care, more passion, more simplicity, more humor—you decide! Once you find that point of difference, build it up, exaggerate it, and incorporate it into all you do.

For example, when I was writing the business plan for Never Liked It Anyway, I came across ExBoyfriendJewelery.com—a direct competitor. Rather than take that as my cue to give up, I saw it as a mandate to define my point of difference, which I decided was my cheeky and irreverent brand voice. So, I leaned into this attitude, dialed it up, and infused it throughout my business—from the brand name, to the marketing plan, to the site’s content. Everything about my brand had to scream “Sassy, cheeky, and moving on!” in order to set it apart.

When you spot a competitor, remember: Look for the differences—not the similarities.


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