Look at Your Competition Like a Horse Race

competition horse race Finding more competition can scare the pants off any entrepreneur. Doing your first Google searches to find competitors is nerve-wracking. In less than half a second your idea can be validated or crushed. Scary times, man. I did just that a couple days ago.

I searched for my top keyword for Gredio (of course I'm no where to be found yet) and saw companies in the paid ads I'd never seen before.

I panicked.

I popped a couple of new tabs open and started to investigate. An unsettling knot in my stomach formed. Had I found another competitor? Not quite (I researched the company further. Turns out they have a different target market). But it caused me to frantically open a Google chat window to ping my co-founder with the false alarm. He did what he always does: brought me back to reality.

I hate to say it, but I stress out about competition.

I search the web for weeks looking for competition before I take the next step. And when I'm halfway through my wire-frames, I stumble on other competitors who I stalk. For a long time, too. It's a bad habit, but I'm trying to follow Brennan Dunn's advice on not fearing your competition.

So, I'm taking that stance. It doesn't matter what my competition is doing. It took me a couple of days to realize how important it is to not look to your left and your right.

Why?

Worrying about competition makes you less effective as a founder.

I'm in the middle of starting up my third company. You think I'd have learned this lesson already. The truth is, I haven't. And it's wearing on my ability to execute. The hours I spend making sure our value proposition is still holding, our target market is still large enough, and that our product is ahead of the field, I could be out talking with customers, filling the top of my sales funnel, and growing my company.

When I lose the ability to execute, I stall. When I stall, I'm not getting anything done. This leads to 80+ hour work weeks playing catch-up. Clearly, that's not a good idea.

Competition is the least of your worries. What about:

  • Finding new users for your product (arguably the most important)
  • Working on a content marketing initiative
  • Wire-framing your next feature to increase user value
  • Support for current users (something I've learned starts with your first user)

There's a lot to do - especially when you're a team of two. And that's when it hit me.

View your competition (and run your business) like a horse race

I hate horse-racing. It lasts for thirty seconds and people wear big hats. It's like old-school NASCAR. On a more serious note, many horse racing concepts are similar to business:

Your jockey is your CEO (or probably you!)

You are in charge of your horse. You control how fast your horse goes, you constantly train it, feeding it more resources to do even better. And you're ultimately in charge of how it performs under pressure.

Your competition are the other horses

While you keep an eye on the other horses in the race, you're focused. You want to make sure your horse is going to win. There's a reason your horse wears blinders? They help you focus on the finish line - not what the other horses are doing. Do you need horse blinders? You can get some for around $50. That's a small price to improve your chances of winning the "race".

Your whip makes your business grow (and your horse finish first)

Lastly, jockeys (CEOs) have a whip to get their horse to speed up. That whip is your secret sauce. While it may hurt your horse (in terms of extra training, money, and resources), your whip is what sets you apart from the other horses. It's what pushes you across the finish line in first place. What's your whip?

After reading back through this post, I make some strange analogies to business. But they help me understand concepts better. I use these analogies at work to explain hard-to-understand SEO concepts or start-up concepts. The horse race is my current favorite because it helps me focus on what I need to do. I don't need to worry about my competition. But I do need to keep on applying the whip. Because I want to win.

Photo courtesy of Flickr