Have you been ripped off?

Before I go into the details of this article, now might be a good time to mention a few of the sites that I regularly follow for information relating to entrepreneurship, business and investing:
  • www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog: This is the blog of Timothy Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week and a man who had accomplished more in 30 years than most people achieve in a lifetime. Highly recommended as is his book!
  • http://zenhabits.net: Leo Babauta lists a lot of useful information relating to simple productivity and living with a long list of accomplishments in his personal life (ie: quitting smoking, doubling his income, losing 40 pounds, etc.).
  • www.entrepreneur.com: Useful for finding articles relevant to entrepreneurship and certain aspects of small business.
  • www.christopartners.com: One of my university lecturers who is a start up and commercialisation consultant. Has a lot of useful information in relation to business in both his blogs, his newsletters, his programs and his site. Check it out.
Apart from these sites I regularly use Google and Wikipedia to find out additional information about topics, and otherwise I just use the contacts I have on several social networking sites to find the information I am looking for.

Earlier this morning I was looking an article on the message board of one of the above sites, when I came across a common worry for entrepreneurs being realised: someone ripping off an idea. This does not occur nearly as much as it is believed to, and can be a bit of a shock when it first happens.

Most people with a business idea fear telling others about their idea in case it is stolen. In my personal experience I have found that most people are honestly too wrapped up in their own lives and ideas, and are more inclined to pick faults in your idea than to try and mimic it. This is a good thing as it allows you to receive corrective insight from others who generally would not buy from you anyway.

What happens however, when someone else take your idea and runs with it? I offer the following suggestions:

  • Keep going: If your idea/business has been so good as to be copied by someone else, then you are obviously onto something worthwhile. By focusing on your strengths you can spend more time building a competitive advantage over your competitors and be seen as a 'first mover' or the 'most reliable' or the 'smartest' in the industry. If you are focusing on building your strengths rapidly it will take your competition quite some time to keep up with you, especially if they have to wait for changes to copy you.
  • Price high: If you are already offering a product at a lower price and people are beginning to mimic it for the same or lower costing, find a way to establish your product at a higher price bracket. If you are competing on price you will eventually be eliminated, so find a way to increase value to your customers that outweighs the additional price tag on your item.
  • Use them to your advantage: Get involved in promoting the industry as a whole and your brand, rather than just your specific product. If you are seen as the industry/category leader, people will be more inclined to buy from you than the competition.
  • Continue to learn: Are your competitors stealing away potential clients? find out what it is they are doing that is causing this loss. For example, if they are offering additional products for the same price but of a lower quality, you might want to emphasise your distinction as a better quality manufacturer. Competitors can be used to find out what it is that clients are interested in, and what they would like to see that isn't being offered currently.
At the end of the day, if someone is dramatically copying you and causing your business dramatic loss, you can seek legal advice and progress in this direction. However I would argue that if you spend the same time and money investing into your business you could develop your business so much so to the point where the competition becomes irrelevant.

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