Photo by Dove Wedding Photography

Competition is like fuel. It can catalyze progress or cause an explosion.

The thing I love most about being a wedding and portrait photographer is the community. I have fun and have wonderful friends who are also wedding and portrait photographers. I would be fooling myself though if I didn’t admit that I compete with colleagues in my community.

Do you ever notice that you’re competing against other photographers who you admire or even call friends?

Competition is easy to notice when you’re looking at businesses that are similar to yours. It becomes REALLY obvious when you’re competing against a similar business that you dislike. How we handle competition defines how successful our business will be.

Unhealthy Competition

When the word “competition” comes to mind, most of us think of unhealthy competition. When I think of strong business competition I often think of ruthless fighting or unethical acts. Sadly, this type of competition does exist. Most likely it comes from a business that you compete with directly. What pushes your relationship with this business into a state of unhealthy competition? How you react to them!

Do you stew over a client they “stole” from you? Are you angry because they are undercutting you or not “playing fair?” Maybe they created a new brand that looks a lot like yours or have similar marketing pieces? How much time, energy, and emotion are you investing in your competitors? Do they make you so frustrated that you become paralyzed and feel like there’s no use in trying?

The reason this competition is unhealthy is because it makes you emotionally unhealthy. The best way to eliminate unhealthy competition is to mentally and physically shut it down. Stop following unhealthy competitors on Twitter, unfriend them on Facebook, don’t read their blog, and avoid discussions about them. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to push your business in an upward direction! You don’t need to know what your competition is doing if it hinders your progress as a business owner and stalls your creativity as an artist.

Healthy Competition

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of competition is, “the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms.”

Who is the “most favorable” to the “third party?”

First, define who your “third party” is. Then, be the best you can be when presenting yourself to that person.

Competition is healthy when it fuels your growth as a business owner and as an artist. Healthy competition is created when you actively strive to be better than you already are and when you tap into other like-minded business owners to challenge you.

Recently, Whitney and I met with a high-profile bride. We really wanted to photograph her wedding and knew we had to give the best presentation we could possible give! We reviewed our current presentation and revamped a few spots to make it stronger. The meeting went well, but the bride informed us that she was meeting with one other photographer. Because we’ve worked with the bride’s planner – and know exactly who’s on her preferred vendor list – we had a pretty good idea who the other photographer was. We also knew that his presentation was going to be AMAZING!

Needless to say, we guessed correctly and in the end the client chose “the competition.” However, this healthy competition catalyzed us to improve our sales presentation and we booked 30% of our 2012 wedding clients – on the spot – within the next few weeks! To lose one wedding in a competition that caused us to improve our business and gain many more weddings is a sign of  healthy competition.

Once you think you’re “the best you can be,” strive to BE EVEN BETTER. Use competition to help define how to achieve significant improvements. Meet with your competition and, if possible, forge genuine friendships with them. You’ll both benefit from each other and both of your businesses will grow.

Over the years Whitney and I have been close friends with some of our primary competitors. We’ve asked each other questions and given each other advice. We’ve shared things that have worked and have not worked. When I lose a potential client to one of these competitors, it does not bother me because I know the “third party” found the other business more “favorable” and I know the client is in good hands. Whitney and I then analyze how we can improve our own business for future clients.

Your Next Steps:
1. Identify your competitors; write them down!

2. How are you relating to them?

3. Are you interacting with them in positive ways?

4. Are they sucking energy and creativity out of you?

5. Or, are they fueling your growth and allowing you to challenge them in return?

Written by Peter Carlson

Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love   working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement. Peter & Whitney run their own studio, Dove Wedding Photography, as well as The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.

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