How Do You Deal With Competition?
Tricks of the Trade: Q&A.
There is always competition. Look at Coke and Pepsi, Verizon and Sprint, Apple and IBM or Adidas and Nike, for example. Whether I was pursuing my master’s in exercise physiology, going for my ACE or ACSM certifications, attending an IDEA conference or even hiring my staff of personal trainers, the people I was interacting with were not only my contemporaries but also my competition.
As Diane Sawyer, co-host of Good Morning America, once said, “Competition is easier to accept if you realize it is not an act of oppression or abrasion. I’ve worked with my best friends in direct competition.”
I’m used to competition. Prior to starting Solo Fitness, I moved to New York to be a modern dancer. My fellow dancers were my friends, confidantes and hang-out buddies. But when it came to auditioning, it was each woman for herself. That was understood. We supported each other in class and wished each other well in auditions, and whatever happened, happened. However, our support for each other when one got the gig and the other didn’t never faltered. That was and is to this day a rule I live by. The work is out there. As colleagues we need to support, encourage and congratulate each other, just as we do with our clients every time we train them.
I have found that the more I focus on my competitor’s success, the more I freeze. As Sawyer said, her best friends are her competitors. And why not? They are alike, and only they know the “ins and outs” of the biz. Like minds migrate toward each other.
I handle competition by moving and grooving to my own beat. Solo Fitness has been around for almost 20 years, and it has developed brand recognition as a specialized one-on-one training organization. Know what you do best, and keep on doing it. I feel that that’s the only way to deal with competition. Once Solo Fitness has made a referral connection, we nurture and sustain it. It’s the personal connections we make with our clients, trainers, referrals and other vendors that keep the association thriving.
On another note, my staff is my competition as well. Even though my trainers sign a noncompete contract, they may take clients for themselves. My goal is to give staff incentives to refer potential clients to Solo Fitness rather than take them on personally. So what’s the benefit to the trainers? It’s financial. They receive referral fees as well as right of first refusal for the clients they refer. Most important, as staff members of Solo Fitness, they receive all the other benefits and support of being in an organization.
Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric, said, “The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important—and then get out of their way while they do it.” So my closing thoughts: Know your competition; know what you do fabulously well, and do it!
Lisa Hoffman, MA
President, Solo Fitness Inc.
New York, New York
I am not a competitive person, in that I am usually too interested in what I am doing to pay much attention to what others are doing. So when others compete, it doesn’t affect me a lot; I just stay focused. I have found that concentrating on my work keeps me from dwelling on other people’s behavior, which I can’t change—and I’m happier for that.
As the aerobics coordinator for a popular club and for Oracle Corporation fitness center, I focused on doing a good job and acting fairly to my staff. Periodically, I would run afoul of one of the instructors, but overall I found that striving for excellence and being fair worked, and things ran pretty smoothly. When I left after 6 years because I moved, the owner sent me a handwritten card thanking me for making the programs successful.
As a studio owner, I naturally competed with fitness facilities in my area. But when I started my business, I made sure I offered something unique, and my business prospered. I left a small gym to open my own company, but I maintained an amicable relationship with my previous employer. Some of my clients came to me every so often to get tips on their programs, while doing their weekly workouts at the gym. Other clients started with me and then moved on to join the gym. So the gym was a tool, another option to help clients keep fit, not a negative. Three other businesses, a Pilates studio and two small fitness studios, opened in my area about the same time mine did. Because it’s a small community, I already knew two of the owners, and I maintained good relationships with all of them. When I felt that a client could use a change or if I thought what I was doing wasn’t working, I’d recommend that the client go to one of these other facilities. Now, as I downsize my own operations owing to life changes, I have offers to teach and to train for these other businesses, and I know that if I choose to work for them, I can count on these people to treat me right.
Interestingly, a Curves® opened up while I still had my studio, and I picked up clients who weren’t satisfied with their experience there. So the competition actually benefited me in that case.
For me the lesson is that if you focus on making the right choices, educating yourself and being good at what you do, you find that the competitiveness in others doesn’t really matter. You will succeed.
Owner/Trainer, Body Mechanics
Custom Sport and Fitness Programs
Moss Beach, California
Below are a couple of my favorite quotes about competition.
“I’m the first to admit that I am very competitive and that I’ll do nearly anything within legal bounds to win. Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.”
“I’m competitive with myself. I always try to push past my own borders.”
When I give lectures to other business owners, the first thing I tell them about competition is that competition is a natural part of business life, so you need to accept it.
However, what you don’t have to accept is the competition “outdoing” you. If you give 100% of yourself, your creativity and gut instinct to be the best, you’ll always win. No one will ever do what you do, the way you do it! So why not do what you do better than anyone else? Then competition simply becomes a business in the ring, and you have no problems knocking it out.
If you don’t believe you have the best business in the world, no one else will either. Competition simply makes you work harder and focus more on doing what you do better than others. It motivates you to become the best at what you do.
President, Reality Fitness Inc.
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