"Your competitors are using this." I recently got a sales email with this subject line. The sender was a sales rep for analytics software that promised "actionable data for huge growth." Supposedly, this would help to unseat the competition.

This might be an effective sales pitch for some people -- but unfortunately for the salesperson, not for me. There is an underlying issue with the note that is worth considering.

If you are obsessing over your competitors, you have already lost out. As Jeff Bezos has said, "If you're competitor-focused and you're already the leader, then where does your energy come from?"

Obsessing over competitors takes the energy off your own work and gives it to someone else. It is impossible to be great when your mind is elsewhere, lost in someone else's new features, market share, and growth. You need to focus on what matters most -- your team and your customers.

I am not saying that you should work in a bubble, blind to what others are doing. In fact, researchers have found that the right amount of competition can be a good thing. But you should use it to hone your focus -- not your anxiety.

Besides, you know what happens when you cross the line from a healthy awareness to obsession? Like most extreme behavior, it does not end well. You will lose sight of what matters.

So, drop the obsession. Silence the unhealthy curiosity. Choose these four actions instead:

Make customers happy

There is nothing more important than listening to your customers and earning their love. And you will not be able to hear them if you are obsessing over the competition. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had an on-point strategy when he said, "If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we'll turn out alright."

Focus on you

Your goals should be guiding your work, not the competition. When Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was asked who the company's biggest competitor was, he said "sleep." Bold, right? Sure, he did go on to mention Amazon and YouTube. But his point was that Netflix is more concerned about its own goals -- giving customers more ways to watch content. This includes an experimental approach to smartphone viewing, which Hastings says, is "a neat idea about how to adapt to the future."

Love your team

When you love your team, they will respond by bringing their best to each day. Just ask CEO Sheldon Yellen. Even though he leads a $1.5 billion property restoration company, he still takes the time to send individual birthday cards to each of his 7,000 employees. He says, "By putting my people first, they then in turn take care of -- in an amazing way -- our clients and customers." With a team like that, who cares about the competition?

Get work done

We have saying at Aha! -- "Go get busy." For us, it means digging into our most meaningful work. So we prioritize our most important tasks and are responsive to teammates' needs. We do all this because we know it is best for our company and customers. It has nothing to do with the competition.

If you keep chasing other people, you will find yourself running on their path -- never actually getting anywhere you really want to go.

I share more company-building strategies in my new bestselling book Lovability. I encourage you to keep your eyes on your own goals, customers, and productivity. Focusing on the work that is in front of you is the only way to build something real and lasting.

As for that salesperson who wanted me to know what our perceived competitors were doing? Thanks for the offer -- but I am too busy focusing on my own company.

How do you ignore your competition?

Published on: Jul 25, 2017