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A competitor is a rival. They are focused on the same things you are: your market and your customers. Competitors are direct challenges to your company’s existence and are usually seen as adversaries. They are. But they can also be a helpful source of learning.

What new capabilities do they have that you don’t?

Art of War says that you should prepare for your enemies capabilities and not their intentions. Same goes for your competitors. You should have a clear understanding of where they have an advantage and where they don’t and marshal your resources carefully. Always assume that every customer will investigate an alternative to your product. Don’t ignore your weaknesses, plan and adjust instead.

What benefits do they offer to customers that you don’t?

Features are different than benefits. Your competitors may not have translated their capabilities into a form that is useful to your customers. Draw the distinction between the two and act accordingly.

How do their products compare to yours?

Product comparisons are always a healthy exercise in that you can not only see gaps, you can also see the future. Product comparisons typically offer insights into the paths your competitors are on. You are either ahead or not. So you should worry or not. In either case, it’s best to know and not guess.

Knowledge is power is an old saying that applies to competitors. Make knowing your competitors a fundamental part of leading your startup and adjust your plans accordingly.

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