Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

I’ve freshened up my summer running clothes, resuscitated my favorite sweat-stained baseball cap, and am again pounding along my favorite outdoor running paths.

But don’t look for me in a crowd of runners. I’m too competitive to compete.

When it comes to competitive running, I’m a middle-of-the-pack woman. The whippet and gazelle runners cruise past me with ease. They have little in common with me, my running style or my ability. Those built-for-speed athletes get under my skin. My competitive streak kicks in and I chase them. They finish with ease. I finish beat – literally. I’m not built to play their game.

I have acknowledged my weakness and made it a strength. I no longer compete. I run my own races on my own terms.

Recognizing weaknesses and converting them to strengths is important in business.

In business, you can’t drop out of competition. In business, competition can give you a winning edge.

By scouting your competition, you can change weaknesses into strengths.

The more you know about your competitors, the better you can conduct your business.

Competition is a mainspring. Competition is motivation to go further, to do better, to innovate more creatively, to show your heels to the pack.

Successful businesspeople respect competition. They embrace it. They use competition to avoid the status quo. They know that competition is the yardstick against which they are being measured. Competition is a catalyst for change.

Using the competition to advantage is a two-way street. While you’re checking out your competitors, your competitors are keeping close tabs on you.

Introspection will keep them off-stride. Introspection starts with knowing what makes your products and services better than the competitors’. It means assessing what you do best, what you can do better and what you probably shouldn’t be doing at all.

Your customers or clients are your best sounding boards. By soliciting their input, listening well and using their insights creatively, you can position your business to make the right moves at the right time. Reach out also to those not doing business with you. Why aren’t your products or services appealing to them? Why are they going to competitors for what you have to offer?

Structured focus groups can provide candid assessments of customer/client preferences, perceptions, and proclivities. When focus group findings are integrated into targeted marketing and communication plans, you can gain another step or two in the business race.

Truthfully, I don’t always enjoy running. Some days the miles are too long or the wind is too strong or there are other things I would rather be doing. That’s when I suck it up and run extra distance. I run because I’ve been running since college. I’m not about to quit now. Running clears my mind. It prepares me for the day. It’s part of my life. And running enables me to indulge my vice for chocolate.

Like running, business isn’t always fun or easy. Getting a leg up on the competition takes constant effort. Success is a demanding partner. It requires commitment and drive to go the extra mile. It involves out-thinking and out-planning the competition.

Business success comes with stamina, mental toughness and the ability to overcome fatigue. Sometimes you have to dig deep to sprint, even when you’re running a marathon.

Ultimately business success is about eliminating weaknesses and capitalizing upon strengths. It’s about running your own race on your own terms. It’s about leaving your competition far back in the pack.

Business success is positioning yourself to get out front, stay out front and cross the finish line in first place.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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