How do you handle Competition?

Who is your biggest competition?  Do you know?  This week I will be walking the trade show floor of Global Pet Expo – last year walking the show was estimated to be the equivalent of walking 4-miles of pet products from around the world.  Four miles!  This year it is estimated to be 10% bigger than last year.  Hope you have your comfy shoes on if you’re attending.

Thousands of retailers and press will be there to see what is new, trendy, innovative and exciting in the pet product industry.  With about 1,000 exhibitors and if it is anything like last year about 3,000 new product launches, it makes you wonder how do companies compete with each other at the trade show?  Or better yet, do they compete with themselves?  Pushing themselves to do better while paying attention to the competition – but not being consumed by it.

I have seen some pet professionals nearly loose their bleep over what they are perceiving as competition to their business (or taking it way too personally!).  For myself I have always been of the mindset that there is enough for everyone, and if you focus on what others are doing that is similar to your business or pet rescue, it just takes away from you growing and moving forward.

I asked a few seasoned pet pros from across the country to give me their take on competition, tremendous insight and advice starting with Mark Winter the Co-Founder and Executive Producer of Pet Life Radio, which was started in 2007. Had this to say:

APP: How have you dealt with competition in the pet industry?

MW: “We’re aware of what the competition is doing, just so we know what’s going on in the space we’re in, but we don’t fixate on it. We have a clear plan for our own business, and goals we want to reach. We focus on that.”

APP: Healthy competition keeps us on our toes and keeps us motivated – but some business owners definitely deal with some scrupulous or unhealthy competition – what has your experience been with unhealthy competition?

MW: “We don’t worry about it unless the competition is doing something that directly affects our business. Then contact the legal team! We believe in honesty and integrity in both our personal and professional lives, and we don’t vary from that. That’s why we have a stellar reputation in both the media world and the pet world.”

APP: What would you say to new business owners who are terrified of the competition?

MW: “If your competition is major multi-million dollar companies, than you possibly do have something to worry about. Is your product unique enough to create buzz and compete with other products on the shelves? It’s great to take the risk if you believe in your products but you must also be realistic and know your market. If your competition is equal to yours as far as size and products, then just go for it.”

I also spoke with Ralph Cohen of Precious Tales and Wham-O Pets.

RC: “The way we have dealt with competition in the pet industry is by creating and innovating new and exciting products constantly. This allows us stay ahead of the competition when introducing products to market.”

APP: Have you ever had to deal with any legal issues of someone copying your idea or product?

RC: “Yes.”

APP: What tips would you suggest to a new business owner (product or service provider) to help protect themselves?

RC:  “The best way to avoid running into issues of copyright and patent infringement of your product/s; is to surround yourself with knowledgeable  professionals and attorneys who can assist in both guiding as well as protecting your intellectual properties.”

Ralph also added: “Never be afraid to face a challenge, anyone with an Entrepreneurial spirit and dream will face competition at one point or another in their endeavors. Competition is what drives one to be the best version of YOU! Businesses are built on all kinds of challenges however learning from your competition may prove to be the most valuable experience.”

Speaking with Bette Schubert, co-founder and Senior Vice President of Sales at Bravo Pet Food – she also had great advice and feedback on the subject of competition.

APP: What do you do to not take competition personally?

BS: “While Bravo was started as the result of my very personal experience with losing a pet and wanting to create better food options, at the end of the day you have to remember that it is business and not everyone is going to share your same values or way of doing things. The health of the dogs and cats that use our products has always been the main focus, and as long as we’re doing that the best way we can that is all that matters. Seeing how our foods have had such a positive effect on so many pets and reading the letters about these success stories that come in from pet parents is a great equalizer and motivator, especially on those tough days.”

APP: What would be your #1 tip to tell other pet professionals about how to deal with competition?

BS: “Learn who you are and stay true to that. Watch your competition, but concentrate on what you want to accomplish and get it done. Keep learning and evolving.”

Bette went on to say, “This is such an exciting time for our industry and category, it’s grown so much in recent years and there is still a lot of room left for continued growth. We are surrounded by innovation and that is very inspiring, especially since more and more pet parents are making better choices for their companion animals. That makes me very happy.”

How do you handle competition?  What is your take away from this? Share in the comment section below!

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