Outside of Montana, the box store hand-wringing went on a decade or 2 ago.
In some communities here in Montana, the box store / franchise explosion is hitting its stride. In Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls and Missoula, it’s old news, while “sleepy rural communities” like Hamilton, Havre and Miles City are now getting their turn.
But your new competitors aren’t always the big box stores, discounters, Wal-Mart and franchises like Starbucks. Sometimes they come from unexpected places.
Like 10 “new kids” moving to town with a financial backer.
Late last spring, a new business came to town here in the Flathead Valley (northwest Montana). The business had a competitor in every town in the valley (and still does).
When they opened, the obvious question had to be “Why do we need another one?” My answer: Who cares?
Even if the existing competitors are the best in the world, is there still room for improvement? Yep.
Does it mean that these world class competitors address 100% of the market for their product/service? Nope.
If they aren’t the best in the world at what they do and they aren’t continuously improving, like Jello, there’s always room for another. This is especially true if they are hungrier than you.
Think about Rocky’s “Eye of the Tiger”. Yeah, it’s a predictable movie, but so is the feature film on your business if your next competitor is willing to do the equivalent of Rocky’s workout to get ready to do battle in your market.
None of the existing businesses in your niche probably “deserve” to own it. That’s something everyone in business earns every day. The right to survive to try again tomorrow. The right to improve, every day. The right to dominate, if you’re good enough, every day.
This new business had advantages. They had no baggage (you can jettison yours). They could hand-pick their staff (and you “can’t do this” because ???). Like their competitors, they all had experience in their line of work.
The biggest advantage? Not knowing what they couldn’t do. Not being tied down by “we’ve never done it that way before” thoughts. Not being afraid to try new things in their market, use new tools and look at the work from a slightly different angle.
I don’t know how this new business is doing financially, but I suspect they’re doing ok because they continue to add to their staff. Their competitors, at least the ones I keep an eye on, are doing more of things these 10 “new kids” are doing. The same things that were previously ignored for reasons only they can try to explain to their customers.
By now, I suspect you are thinking “So what? Why do I care?”
Simple. This could happen to you. Tomorrow.
You need to be more than ready – you need to be ahead of the game. Already doing what they’ll do when they come to town – which means their “new stuff” isn’t new at all.
If you started your business over tomorrow, with new employees, no baggage, nothing preventing you from being whatever “state of the art” is in your line of work â?? can you think of 3 things (or 5, or 10) that you would do differently than you’re doing now?
Why aren’t you already doing them?
Doing them now is what insulates you from those 10 wizards of whatever-you-do who move back to town with big ideas and make your business look like it’s asleep at the wheel, or worse, kick it to the curb.
No matter what your business does, it is entirely possible that the next 10 experienced professionals coming to the to town to compete with you. If you’re the equivalent of “Joe’s Local Hardware Store” in your market, in your market, tomorrow could be the day that your market’s version of Lowe’s and Home Depot announce new stores in your town.
How do you shield yourself from the new kids and their new ideas? Compete with yourself. Get the “We’ve always done it this way” out of your vocabulary.
Take successful strategies from other markets, modify them to fit your business and implement them. You don’t need a blank sheet of paper. Just look around and see what works elsewhere. In your market, it might just be new.
Re-open your business and position yourself such that the new kids have to work 3 times as hard and be 3 times as smart to even get a toehold. Re-open it often.
If you’re the new kid on the block, stay that way. Mix your grandfather’s kind of customer service with your “new kid” vision, enthusiasm, current market ingenuity and experience.