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How well do you know your competition?
If your like many small business owners, the answer to that question is probably not well. Many times small business owners are so caught up doing their thing every day, that they forget to keep an eye out on what their competitors are doing.
In previous entries I mentioned how important it is to keep ahead of the competition, especially the big boys, but how can you do that if you are not keeping an eye out for what they are up to. Now I am not talking anything secret agent style here but hey if that is your style, have fun. The main thing you want to do is to find out what their stores look like, how well their employees are trained, how they price, and figure out how you can out smart them.
I would recommend you go out and visit each of your major competitors at least once a month. However, you should also not forget about the smaller competitors and visit them every few months to keep up on what is happening out in the world.
Often times the big players will send out people to shop the competition but they often will not visit locally owned stores because they don't consider them to be important. This can be a major advantage to you since you will know more about them than they know about you.
The more you know about your competition, the better prepared you are to be competitive and ahead of the them.