This may sound like a familiar question, one that you probably answered when first starting out with your business. But, who are your competitors today? For example, say you own a deli sandwich shop located in a strip mall on a busy street in the downtown area. Around your deli are other restaurants serving up everything from hamburgers to pizza. Who is your competition? What about the convenience store down the street that sells pre-made deli sandwiches? How about the neighborhood supermarket that also sells fresh deli sandwiches?

Often, who your competitors are is an easy question for most businesses, and one that can create many expectations when thinking about it. Yet, many small businesses and corporations as well, generally lose sight of this question. It becomes a rudimentary procedure in their business planning; something that eventually changes any short and long-term goals.

A perfect example was the giant electronics retailer Circuit City. Starting in the 1950’s from a small TV store, Circuit City became the retail leader in the electronics market. Unfortunately, their leadership was more concerned with the bottom line and simply forgot about the customer experience. Their leadership relied on outdated principles and did not look at the buying habits of present day customers. On top of that, Circuit City executives failed to understand their competition, which made room to rising stars like Best Buy and Amazon.

There’s one thing that every business owner should understand, competition is all around you. You don’t need to look far; you just need to look at it from different angles of your business. Try putting yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment. What are they looking for? Is it a quality product, price, convenience, or customer experience? Think about that for a moment and find out what alternatives your customers may have. It just might surprise you! Also, there’s no rocket science involved here, no math equations to solve and no detailed sales plan to come up with. Realistically, what businesses should focus on is a better understanding of what customers want.