How Well Do You Know Your Competition?
I’m writing this in the midst of “March Madness.” If you like college basketball, it’s the best time of year. Some of the greatest strategic minds coach these teams, like Coach Jim Calhoun of UConn and Coach Mike “K” Krzyzewski of Duke. Strategy plays a big part of each game — coaches have to establish their game plan by determining where to focus their resources and which skills to execute, while maintaining the ability to adjust strategy as situations unfold.
As any coach will tell you, a critical part of preparing your game strategy is analyzing the competition. Who are the key players? Who is strong and who is weak? Who can shoot the field goal and who can rebound? What are the greatest barriers to winning?
Every competitor has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. One way to assess your competition is to put yourself in your competitor’s shoes; try to predict the likely changes they might make in their game, as well as probable responses to changes you are considering. Forecasting your competitor’s possible actions helps you create a stronger competitive position.
At Albu Consulting, we ask our clients to “role play” by acting as the senior management of their most feared competitor. Clients think about the actions they would take to eliminate their own company from the market, or to seriously cripple sales and earnings. This exercise provides some very interesting and eye opening discoveries, because who knows your weaknesses better than your company leaders?
Jack Welch, author of Winning, recommends that managers assess their business with a set of five questions — or the “Five Slides.”
1. What does the playing field look like now? (Scope out the competition.)
2. What has the competition been up to? (Where is the competition going? Are there new competitors?)
3. What have we been up to? (Scope out ourselves.)
4. What’s around the corner? (Where are the threats?)
5. What is our winning move? Good planning is essential to creating profitable growth. Good leaders, like coaches, make competitive assessment a priority.