People are trained to think about competition all the time. You need to understand your competitors and your differentiating factors. Strategically, it’s important to look at the market and stake your particular ground. But strategy is only 5% of the game, the rest is execution. When it comes to executing on your strategy day in and day out, sometimes you need to forget about competition and focus on your customers. Adding features because your competitors have them, obsessing about new market entrants, and constantly refreshing industry news can lead to a very muddied approach to your business.
When you look at the cultures and personalities of companies, the ones who are obsessed with competition tend to be neurotic and uncomfortable in their own skin. Steady, yet humble confidence leads to true industry leaders. Apple has fierce competition, but thinking about competitors would have led them to a bigger MP3 player or a laptop with more features, not the iPhone or the iPad. Apple has a very simple strategy: build beautiful and simple products. That’s it. It is Apple’s relentless execution that has built one of the most valuable companies in the world. Anybody could replicate Apple’s strategy. Nobody has been able to replicate its execution.
There are some markets that are commoditized and hyper-competitive. As an entrepreneur, I would prefer to avoid these all together. But some people thrive in that environment. At the end of the day, everybody has their own approach, both companies and individuals. I believe that entrepreneurs should think deeply and carefully about their market, their competition, and changes that are happening in the world. But when you’re in the thick of a battle, forget about competition and focus on delighting your customers. That will lead to long-term success much more often than a neurotic focus on your competitors.