“We don’t bother about competitors here,” he said.
This seemed a strange thing to say for someone in business; except our subsequent discussion established what he really meant. It was that none of their competitors were winning any significant business from them, mainly because they operated in a different market area. Therefore, he believed, it wasn’t worth spending time and effort on tracking and analysing what they were doing.
It now made a little more sense. Even so, it was hard to believe there was nothing that might be of value in keeping a closer eye on his competitors.
In our world, we visit a good number of clients and work with them in looking at their business, so it’s hardly surprising that the topic of competitors arises quite frequently.
‘Competitors’, like ‘customers’, is an all-encompassing term which we use for ease of conversation. It enables us to distinguish between the two groups with ease. In reality, they could be considered to be in the same parish as the terms cover a diverse range of people and businesses in both cases.
Direct or Indirect?
When you talk about competitors, you perhaps need to consider whether they are direct or indirect. If direct, do they offer an identical product or service or is it just a similar offering. You might then want to consider how, when and where this offering takes place. Finally, look at the speed and cost of their delivery. It’s true that all of this could take considerable time and effort and so you need to be sure it will be beneficial to your business.
It is, in fact, not just about cost and delivery times but more about what you can learn. Also, it’s not just about your direct competitors as you can learn a lot from other unrelated businesses and the way they manage their processes.
One of the requirements within the revised International Management Standards (ISO 9001; 14001; 27001, etc.) is continual improvement. So, if you need to ‘up-your-game’ do your competitors provide a range of opportunities for you to learn, adapt and benefit from?
Another requirement of the revised Management Standards is to determine the context of your business. If you say “We don’t bother about competitors here” it could be an interesting conversation with the Auditor from the Certification Body.
The Standards don’t require that you spend large amounts of time and money following your competitors. However, they should at least be recognised as an ‘Interested Party’ with possible needs and expectations. Therefore they present a possible risk or, potentially, an excellent opportunity to improve your business.