Many of us have a vexed relationship with our business competitors, whether or not we actually know them. With one eye trained on our competitors, stalking them online or listening out for gossip from mutual acquaintances, it’s exhausting business. For many, it’s not enough to just get on with our work; we always have to second-guess the next move our competitors will likely make.

Too often, the default position with our competitors is distrust and dislike. Competitors may stoke our insecurities, provoke anger or lethargy, and suck the satisfaction out of our work. They drain our energy and we feel always cast in the shadow. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Business competitors help you define your difference

One of the biggest gifts your competitors give you is the need to define your unique value and point-of-difference. Your brand must stand out if it’s to be effective. Oftentimes, defining your difference can be a cause of angst and uncertainty. In these cases, it can be hugely beneficial to define your business against your competitors.

This involves drawing differences and similarities between your business brands; what does your competitor do that you do differently? Why? What does your competitor stand for where you stand for something different? Why? How are these differences visually summarized?

Having a benchmark to define yourself next to can help kick off the oftentimes-murky process of defining your business’s unique value.

Business competitors share your audience

Partnering with your competition for an event, webinar, competition or something else can help both businesses by sharing your assets – your list of clients and community. In this way, you can both reach out to a larger pool of qualified prospects.

Too often, businesses are hugely protective of their databases. But people resonate with different people. Some people on your database may respond well to your competitor and some people on their database may respond well to you. By sharing audiences through a joint promotion, you’re able to quickly and effectively grow your community.

Everybody wins in these instances – people have self-selected whether they resonate with the personality and message of the new business. Together, you’re able to reach far more people than you can alone.

Look at your wardrobe for competitors

When I feel a little insecure about my community and my competitors, I think about my wardrobe. It’s filled with clothes of different brands. We don’t purchase all our clothing from one brand only, and the same applies to other businesses.

Sometimes one business is the most convenient; sometimes we flirt with another; sometimes we frequent a business for special events only. No one business will likely satisfy one client for their entire lives; people move away, their life changes, their needs evolve along with their preferences.

Learning to relax about our clients and prospects helps us appreciate that we’re dealing with things outside our control – namely, other people.

Referring business

Your competitors should be a great source of referrals, as you refer people to them as well. As your brand and your competitors’ brand are distinct, your ideal clients are also different. It is not the job of the business to secure each and every prospect. We do not have to make the sale at any cost – in fact, some clients will cost us dearly to do business with – in stress, cash flow, and by repelling other clients and staff.

The client who’s unhappy at your business could be perfectly suited and celebrated at your competitor’s business. Referring business onto your competitors should encourage them to refer business onto you too. Remember, your unique value is distinct. So refer people on if you think they’re better suited elsewhere.

Embracing your successes

It’s easy to overlook our successes in the rush of everyday busyness. In this way, we forsake our joy and satisfaction in favour of the next thing and the thing after that. Competitors encourage us to embrace our successes because we need to share our stories if we’re to show people why others appreciate us.

Sharing your successes through case studies, testimonials, awards or other things engages your audience and demonstrates what makes you unique. Modesty does you few favours in business but nor should you be loud or obnoxious. Highlighting the progress of your clients or sharing stories of your staff takes the spotlight off you whilst simultaneously showcasing your success.

Creating allies and building your mafia

Some competitors won’t be fair, ethical or particularly likeable. But this isn’t true of all competitors and you’ll never likely know the difference if you keep them all at arm’s length. Your competitors are also your colleagues who are uniquely qualified to empathise with the particular stresses and pressures, as well as the joys and satisfactions, which you experience.

You can treat your competitors as dangerous and untrustworthy or you can embrace them as your allies and mafia, to support, de-stress with, and celebrate the unique career paths you’ve both chosen.

Your competition is there to motivate and inspire you. They ensure you don’t become complacent but are inspired to better define your difference, communicate your unique value, and embrace your philosophy, values, and personal idiosyncrasies. Life’s far more fun with allies than competitors.