Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at email@example.com.
Q. My company is doing well, but a competitor just raised a bigger round and won a bigger customer—they seem to be the new darling. Should I be worried?
– Founder of a successful Series B company
Maybe you should be worried, but I am a fan of worrying about what you can control as opposed to fretting over what you cannot. I also believe that you have way more in your control than not.
You do have to watch the competition, but you can’t be too affected by things they are doing. If we focus too much on the competition, we lose sight of where we are going. It’s hard to run up the stairs when you are always looking right and left, and at who’s coming up behind you. And, it’s not always as important as you might think. It is important for you to stay grounded in your vision or strategy.
What you can do is address what is in your control. If things are good, ask yourself what you can do to make them great. The way to do that is to get an honest look at where you are and then look at where you are going—and where you want to be going. Then you will have to make sure you can get there. I don’t want to leave you in a puddle, but all of us need to know where we are in the world and what we can do to get better. Be real. Where do you stack up and what will it take to improve?
I think it might be helpful to shift your mindset and see competition as good—not bad. If you worry too much about what you are up against you would never start something new. We’d still buy tickets through travel agents instead of online, we’d use taxis instead of Uber and Lyft and there would be no Facebook, only a failed Friendster. Competition—whether competing against another company or the status quo—is what evolves old ideas, inspires new ones, and makes the world work better.
Ultimately, you are your most important competition. If you don’t build a product or service of relevance, it really doesn’t matter what your competition does. As Michael Jordan said, “you have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself that you have to go out every day and live up to that.” That is how he got to be the greatest basketball player of all time—and it’s really the secret for anyone to succeed. Don’t be worried about what others are doing—let it inspire you to up your game.