- Kelly Sharp is the owner of the Heart of Iowa Market Place in historic Valley Junction.
It's no secret that competitive people want to win, love to win … need to win.
For some people, their competitive fire is fueled more by not losing than it is by winning. Very competitive people hate to lose more than anything.
So what does that have to do with specialty retailing, especially if you've positioned your business in such a niche that there is no real competition? The answer is plenty.
If I've learned anything as a runner, a competitive horse rider and a specialty retailer, it's that competing against myself is one of the most important things I can do to be successful.
That's not to say we don't need to be aware of what's going on around us. After all, we can't pretend that others aren't competing against us every day. But one way we can deal with those challenges is by challenging ourselves.
Like a lot of runners, I'm always measuring my results against previous efforts and looking for ways to gain a step here and a step there.
In competitive horse riding, nothing replaces focus and practice, practice, practice. Focus means you know what you need to do to win. Practicing the right things ensures that you react the right way. As a business owner, you can't afford to just react the right way when a situation just comes up. You have to be focused on the right things so that your energy goes to setting the agenda and winning each day, rather than reacting to external events as they pop up.
In specialty retailing, there are any number of places -- from a different product mix and even better customer service in the front of the store to employee training and new software in the back of the shop -- to up your game. You just have to put in the effort to find those advantages and make them work.
Competing against yourself is all about self-improvement. And that gives you an edge in several ways.
First, it's an antidote for complacency. If you're always working harder and smarter, your business is always going to keep getting better.
Second, any potential competitor will have second, third and fourth thoughts about trying to take you on when they see just how hard you strive to be the best.
Finally, top competitors always like to compete against the best. And shouldn't you really be your toughest competition by always being at the very top of your game?