Why we should not worry about the competition

Holly Cohen interviews Rachael Ray at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women in Philadelphia (photo by Cheryl Landes)

Anyone who owns or manages a business, or who’s responsible for marketing a business, constantly hears this advice: “Watch out for the competition.” We must always know what they’re doing. We must ensure that whatever they’re doing doesn’t interfere with what we’re doing. Or that whatever they’re doing doesn’t destroy us.

So, if we hear someone who’s bold enough to say, “I never worry about the competition,” we would wonder how successful they really are. Has their ego gone overboard? Why would anyone take that risk?

Well, someone isn’t worried, and she’s among our most successful entrepreneurs. That someone is Rachael Ray.

OK, we could argue that at Rachael Ray’s level of success, she doesn’t need to be worried about the competition. Who would dare try to compete against her?

Rachel doesn’t worry about the competition, because her focus is on her commitment to her audience—her customers. “I worry about the promise we’re keeping as a group of people,” she said during an interview with Philadelphia-based chef and cookbook author Hope Cohen at a Pennsylvania Conference for Women I attended in Philadelphia.

“The keyword here is listen,” she said. “You have to listen to your customer, your consumer, your audience. And you have to be committed to that—that you are there out of a commitment and a promise to them.

“I also think that you have to know who and what you are and what it is you’re trying to deliver and stay in that lane. It’s great to grow and think about how you can evolve into the next thing, but you also have to find what your promise is. For example, for our brand, our promise is acceptability, can do, and value.

“I don’t want to be the cheapest pot and pan, but I want to find the best value in that fabrication, or in that genre. I want you to pick up the cookbook or watch the TV show and feel you’re a part of it and you can do anything that you see on the pages in print.

“These are the things we are committed to as a community…We all have a common vision, and I think that’s very important.”

She summed it up by saying, “What you’re trying to accomplish needs to be a common vision.”

That’s how she keeps her promise to her audience. She listens to them and delivers what they want. If she’s focusing on what the competition is doing, she’s no longer listening to her customers and cannot keep her promises to them.

This doesn’t mean that we simply ignore what our competition is doing. We could even be inspired by what they’re doing. As a result, we might come up with new ideas that help us provide what our customers need. But we should not allow our observations to distract us from our commitment to our customers.

That same inspiration might even reveal new opportunities to broaden our product lines or services while still maintaining our common vision and keeping our promises to our customers. Our customers will appreciate it and, in return, remain committed to us.

Watch Hope Cohen’s full interview with Rachael Ray.