Savvy Chicks Media Blog » Don’t Be Afraid To Imitate Others

Don’t Be Afraid To Imitate Others

You’ve heard it said before: imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.  It’s true, so go ahead and look to businesses that you respect. What do they do well? For example, do they have strong operations, great pricing, quality products, strong customer support or inventive marketing strategies?  Identify what you admire about them and try to imitate, or better yet, where possible, even improve upon those aspects that strike you favorably.

A good way to step ahead of your competition is to be vigilant about looking closely at what they are doing.  Likewise, some of your best ideas may be found listening to your customers or from friends who are small business owners themselves.  We regularly ask our clients what they liked (and disliked) about working with competitors.  We even inquire as to how their experience with us is/was as compared to expectations they may have formulated by listening to ours and others’ marketing messages.

One of the clearest examples of imitation can be found in the fast food industry.  McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s (to name a few) have made a science out of imitating the most successful moves of each other.  The same principles apply to smaller businesses as well.  Many small hardware stores now offer either the same types of services offered by the big chains – or an improved version of them.  How about pizza delivery services with 30 minute benchmarks or oil change services where they top off all your car’s fluids?  It has even become commonplace for many of the convenience stores to now offer free or reduced-price refills to keep you coming back.

Recently, I took my family out to the movies and went to the concession counter during the screening.  The server told me he would bring the popcorn and sodas to us in the theater.  I asked him when they started that practice and he responded that they began doing it when it became a popular move at a competitor’s theater (20 miles away!)

So go ahead and flatter away.  Imitation can help promote healthy competition and keep you at the head of the pack.  No business owner knows the best way to do everything, so don’t be shy about borrowing ideas.  Best of luck and continued success.

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    Eric Degen, CPA, LPBC, CMEC

    Eric is a Certified Public Accountant, Licensed Professional Business Coach and a Certified Mastermind Executive Coach as well as a Partner and Founding member of Titan Business Development Group, LLC. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey, Eric was also the recipient of the Seay Honors Trophy, the College’s highest accolade. His career portfolio includes working with the top-tier firm of Rothstein, Kass and Company, CPA’s and as a Director with Wiss & Company, LLP, a premier accounting and consulting firm in New Jersey. He has worked intimately with businesses both public and private, as well as with not-for-profit establishments, throughout the United States and brings valuable insights and experience to the table. His work has been published by the Financial Executives Institute and accounting journals and he is included in the esteemed “Who’s Who in Business” publication.

    Eric Degen, CPA, LPBC, CMEC

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    • Very exciting to read this piece. I just want to inject some ideas I’ve found during post-grad research into microeconomic growth that suggest that copying other methodologies may NOT always be best strategy. One must consider capitalization and funding before taking a leap in the direction of duplication.

      Some people simply have more money to play with. I have found that successful enterprises (micro) tend to reinvest about 2 to 5 percent of gross into business improvements each year. For a mom and pop shop, that may mean only $1,500 a year. For a large auto tire center, that may mean $50K. The interesting thing is that business growth seems to be parallel for these businesses…with one very important investment strategy in place. All business improvements must be suggested by and responsive to paying customer inputs.

      So if the business next door is revamping its storefront because the owner just inherited $500,000 from Uncle Bob’s estate, the result will be the same for a business that invests $125 and sweat equity to repaint the storefront and add a potted flower by the front door. Customers see improvements, and, if asked, will tell business owners exactly what they would like to see in the way of pricing, product mix, and service offerings.

      The keys to success seem to revolve around a central theme of what I call “Consumer-centric Improvements” and solid “business improvement budgeting.” Merge these two ideas and grow, grow, grow!

    • Imitating doesn’t have to be pure or direct. You should adapt others’ ideas to the needs of your firm. It could be that somebody else’s concept for attracting new clients just gets the ball rolling for your firm to innovate in its own way.

      In fact, adopting a competitor’s business model without any modification at all may backfire. Not every successful business model—even among law firms—can be successfully duplicated. And, imitating completely certainly won’t win you favor in your field.

    • Your article is very interesting and makes a lot of sense. when the idea for my start-up M & D Typing and Data Entry Services (M & D) was first conceived late last year into earlier this year, never in my wildest dreams would anyone ever imagine that I was starting my own business.

      When conceiving the idea for M & D as a Virtual Administration Assistant (VA), I knew someone that already had her own business similar to my idea and concept, but she was already established; but the similarities end whereas I own my own computer already uploaded with the latest Microsoft Office Suite, while she has to rely on the Public Library to complete her days work.

      Even though she wasn’t too thrilled that I was doing this, what my competitor never ever realized, she was one of my inspirations to even conceive and start my own VA company. My nephew in Margate, FL on the other hand was very supportive and will be coming up to visit my husband and I in the summer and will surely help me further. He has a very successful pet sitting service which he started out as a hobby and while working for another industry.

      My father-in-law, who within the last year has retired from running his own Insurance company. With the many, many years in business, I learned alot from him. He was probably inspired by his own father, who was in the Insurance industry as well.

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