Against Whom Do We Compete In Business?

Richard Shrapnel's 'Against Whom Do We Compete In Business?'.

Many business leaders do not have a handle on how their businesses compete and in fact, are not comfortable with the frame of competing when it comes to leading their business.  However, every moment of everyday every business, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is competing whether they recognise it or not. Better, therefore, that you do have a clear image of how your business competes.


Active Knowledge Question:

So how does your business compete, what’s its competitive posture, how does it fight the good fight?


Every Business Competes

Some business leaders will say openly that they do not like the language of competing because they relate those words to profit, and their not-for-profit organisation does not exist to profit. But of course, every business needs to make a profit to sustain themselves.

Other leaders would respond by saying we’re not here to compete, we’re here to win and make as much profit as we can. However, of course, profit is only an outcome of competing well, and the motive of profit-first is the less effective one anyone can set.

And then some leaders will respond with a yes and acknowledge that obviously, they compete for customers and many other things, but then stumble when asked to express succinctly how their business competes. And if you do not hold a clear image of how you compete, how can you possibly build an organisation to deliver on that image.

Every business competes, but very few businesses understand how they compete.


Around What We Compete

Ask those in business around what things they compete and encourage them to open up, and you will begin to generate a list something like this; we compete for:

  • Sales
  • Customers
  • Margins
  • Cost of goods
  • Supply chain
  • Warehouse efficiency
  • Technology
  • IT systems
  • Accurate data
  • Locations
  • Online traffic
  • Brand recognition
  • Employees
  • Productivity
  • Consumables
  • Social Media
  • Net promoter score …

And so the list will build to cover almost everything involved in running a business.

But there is often something missing in all these lists, and maybe its easily expressed as ‘connection’.

And stated this way, ‘Why are we competing across all these things?’. There is hopefully a clear role that each of these elements play in allowing your business to compete well.

Around what do we compete in business? We all compete around customer value. No matter what business you maybe in, you compete to deliver more customer value than anyone else. And from delivering this greater value, you expect to make greater profits.

You compete to deliver greater value against the needs of the customers that comprise your chosen market. Value is always, and only, measured against how well it meets the defined needs of your customers. It’s not your perception of the value you offer, it is the customers’ perspective of the value they receive that sets the level of value.


Your Competitive Posture

All the things listed above are simply components that go into the mix that reflects the value that your business is seeking to deliver.

It will likely, and should, be unique to your business as it built from:

  • The purpose for which your business was created.
  • The motive for which it continues to exist.
  • The perspective through which you view customer need – what is the real need we are seeking to meet?
  • The set of capabilities you can bring to bear against that need to create customer value.
  • How you have chosen to structure your business to deliver that value.
  • How you have modelled the competitive engine in your business, which includes all of the above and:
    • Crafting a culture to underpin competitiveness.
    • Sustaining a vision that represents your quest.
    • Only permitting worthy leaders in your business.
    • A reward programme that energises and rewards everyone in the business.
    • Removing all barriers to performance.

Your competitive engine is the driver of competitiveness in your business and sets the floor and ceiling to your success.

An expression of that competitive engine in the marketplace is how you have chosen to compete. It is your competitive posture, that is, how you believe you can deliver greater value and outcompete everyone else in your marketplace.

But if that image is not clear in your mind, and the entire business’s mind, then you will find your business floundering and not performing anywhere near its capability. Think of it this way; if an Olympic athlete does not have a clear image of what they need to build within themselves to compete well, then they will have no hope of winning. Your business is no different.

In business, you compete against yourself, first and foremost.


An entirely new level of performance.

Want to become a part of the Entrepreneurs+ Community and learn how to make your business competitively fitJoin now.


All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel