I’ve been hearing a lot from small business owners that it can get tricky to compete when they get to know everyone. It’s a particular problem for small business owners when they are in small towns, active cities or in their communities. Competition can get very personal very fast.

So how do we healthfully compete while in the same community with our competition? How do we see the “competitor” when our kids are both in soccer games together or theater productions? How do we see our main rival at the grocery store and not want to go right back into work instead of spending our personal time doing personal things?

It’s not as hard as you think - you simply choose to not to “see” them that way at all.

  • Make a conscious decision to view the parent of your child’s friend as that parent or fellow parishioner, or cohabitant of your town, etc. In other words when you are in your personal time, be personable.
  • Treat your competition at work respectfully. Everyone understands you are technically competing for business. But, this does not mean you have to be cut-throat or underhanded and refusing to do so helps decrease the tension when you meet them outside of work.
  • Invite your competition to lunch during work hours. You do not have to become fast friends, although it just might happen, but you should form a mutually respectful relationship to make both your professional hours and your personal run-ins more pleasant and rewarding.
  • If your competition resorts to heavy handed or disreputable practices do not “match” their behavior. People, especially people in small groups, will come to see their behavior and reward you for not answering the call.
  • Do not “sell” on personal time. In other words, don’t “talk shop” to your friends and neighbors during personal time. When you and your competitor continue to compete during personal hours it drags the community into it with you. People will appreciate you not putting them in that position. Alternatively, if people do come to expect you to sell to them in their personal time or worse compete for them you can alienate potential customers and upset friends and family.
  • Resist the urge if someone tries to pull you into a professional conversation during personal time. You have every right to your time with friends, family and private time. If someone attempts to engage you in a discussion about your services or get “free advice” while you’re on a picnic politely help them to pick a time to come to the office/store to meet with you or one of the members of your team.

That being said the most important thing to remember is that businesses are in the business of doing business. This is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are on professional time and acting in a responsible and respectful manner then by all means Compete! It’s an honorable profession. You are providing goods or services which help your community, potentially employ members of that community and spread the wealth. Make no apologies for trying to do so to the very best of your ability.

So the bottom line is keep that line drawn in your head. Personal stays personal and Professional stays professional. But, when you are on company time, make no apologies for competing with No Worries!

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