How to stay ahead of the pack in small business

Kate Jones
@kateljnes

Business success hinges on innovators, not imitators. So knowing how to stay ahead of the pack is vital for businesses looking to disrupt their industries.

But there’s no magic solution to staying competitive. Keeping ahead of the curve is reliant on taking risks, tapping into new technologies and maintaining the fundamentals.

Martin Hosking, chief executive at online artist community and marketplace Redbubble.com, recommends starting by striving for difference.

“Don’t get overly focused on what your competitors are doing,” he says.

“If you are too focused on your competitors, you will simply be copying what they are doing.

“What you focus on is what your customer’s needs are. A good example of this is the Apple iPhone – Apple didn’t copy other phones, they created a new paradigm for a phone.”

If you are too focused on your competitors, you will simply be copying what they are doing.

Savvy business owners know only too well the importance of social media. Rather than throwing all your efforts at every social media channel, it pays to research which one is right for your business, says Marc Cowper, founder of social recommendation network Recomazing.

“Social media can be a great way to drive new leads and reach a large audience, but first you need to make sure you’re on the right platform for the right reason,” he says.

“Depending on your business objectives, you may find that not all social media channels are relevant to you.”

Positioning your business on the cutting-edge of your industry depends on knowing your brand inside-out. It also relies on an equally good knowledge of your competitors, says David Jordan, Australian general manager of ice-cream retailer Baskin Robbins.

Social media can be a great way to drive new leads and reach a large audience, but first you need to make sure you’re on the right platform for the right reason.

“Competition is healthy, however you must understand who your competitors are, what they are offering and what their unique selling proposition is,” he says.

“This will identify the areas you need to compete in, as well as giving you a platform for differentiating yourself.”

Entrepreneurs striving to lead the way need to ensure they are keeping an eye on business basics. This includes surrounding yourself with a good team that understands your vision and is inspired to achieve it. Also, stay true to your brand and make sure it delivers an excellent service.

Finally, invest in skill development for yourself and your team. Constantly learning will keep you informed about latest trends and how best to tackle them.

Kate Jones

Kate Jones writes for the business and money sections of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. She also writes for The New Daily, TAC, RMIT and is a news writing tutor at Monash University.

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