Sometimes I like to retreat to my cave – to be alone with my entrepreneurial ambition. Free from comparisons, suggestions and uninvited critique. Whilst it may all be very well intended; my business is like my baby. I conceived it, nourish it and am very protective of it and its unique personality.
You get me don’t you? So how does it feel when you get told about the so-called competition. How dare anyone compare your offspring! Your business is a one of a kind and therefor has no competition! This is never more apparent than when the business owner claims to ‘be the business’ and therefore it must be a one of a kind as they transfer their own feelings of individuality – a certainty in their uniqueness – to their business.
Are we so naïve though? “What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the Sun.” to quote from Ecclesiastes 1:9
It’s a fatal flaw at Networking events. You give your pitch, the recipient mulls it over, and then, that stab to the heart. “So you’re like so and so?” or they just as quickly try to lump you and your fresh idea into a stale, vanilla box within the realms of their comfort level.
Mark Twain’s own biography quotes him as “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of coloured glass that have been in use through all the ages.” But it’s still my curious combination we claim!
Humans like the familiar. Familiarity gives us a feeling of safety which allows us to enjoy the moment. As we listen to you delivering your answer to “So what do you do?” – we scramble to make sense of what I’m sure is a well-planned out answer. We seek to compare and to distil it down. It can hurt your feelings. Especially when you have put in the hard yards to make sure you have a point of difference. However, are you communicating it clearly to your audience?
You can stand out and still give your market that feeling of safety they so often crave.
A warning though. Don’t end up being so obscure in the way that you explain your business or idea that people are just confused. It’s different to creating a sense of curiosity. It’s not clever, it’s just annoying.
Curiosity sees us wanting to know more. So, we’ll ask questions to satisfy that curiosity. It makes for a good conversation. Take things too far though – too abstract – and I won’t even try because I cannot see a sense of comfort in our future.
I have seen many attendees at Networking events give an intro or pitch so obscure people are left scratching their heads as to what they should say next. Not wanting to sound ignorant we often make no further enquiries about their business. Other times we see no value in what they do as there is no familiarity. No frame of reference. No safety.
When I owned a service based company we appreciated ‘competition’ or at the very least a company offering a similar service. Clients liked to get a few quotes and so long as we kept an eye on the market – it gave us a way to compete and stand out.
So, competition is not all bad. We can still stand out and make a piece of the market our own. Be comfortable with comparison – but also be alert. Are people making the right comparison? It can also serve to give you an insight into how they see what you offer and how they understand your business. Do they pop you into the right box? Do they acknowledge that extra something you bring to the market – your curious combination?
It’s our job to make sure we communicate well. That we are understood. We also need to toughen up a bit when someone pops up on the radar in our corner of the market. Build relationships, know your market, communicate your worth. Be generous.
There may be nothing new under the Sun – but you can make a new combination and shine.