A View From a Surgeon: Dealing With Competition

A View From a Surgeon: Dealing With Competition


The reality is competitors will always exist, no matter what you do, but especially in Medicine and Dentistry. There are no copyrights, or protections for that procedure you have “invented” or what you think is an innovative treatment. Anatomy has been around for a million years.

There is nothing new to identify. So rather than approach competition with dread, you should view your competitors as the impetus for innovation and fuel to do things differently (and better!).

Lets look at some important points about competition.

Original ideas

There are very few truly original ideas. This may sound depressing at first, but it’s actually very liberating. Once you realize the world is teeming with interesting nuggets of ideas just waiting to be infused with your own twists and insights, you can stop waiting for inspiration, just do it. Think about it: Ideas don’t usually pop into your head out of nowhere—they often build on previous strokes of genius (yours or others’) or reinvent an existing idea in a new context. Even Newton’s Law was a result of Galileo’s theorems: The law of inertia and The Law of Elliptical Paths.

The point of this is to say: Competition is inevitable—it’s how you deal with it that really counts.

It’s our similarities that make us different

What do you do when you inevitably spy a competitor who’s already launched “your” idea? Resist the urge to wail about how unfair it is, and instead, define and sharpen what makes you different. Regardless of your industry, there should be at least one thing you do with a little more something—more care, more passion, more simplicity, more humor—you decide! Once you find that point of difference, build it up, exaggerate it, and incorporate it into all you do.

When you spot a competitor, remember: Look for the differences—not the similarities.

Watch, but don’t take your eye off the ball

While it’s important to watch your competition and be aware of the tricks they have up their sleeves, make sure you stop short of stalking. I know it’s temping—but myopically focusing on competition is a big innovation killer. When your entire focus is on your competitors, you’ll start to believe that their innovations are your only possibilities.

Let’s look at the world of instant coffee for a perfect example: Coffee Brand A adds flavor. So, Coffee Brand B follows suit. Then, Brand A launches mini-sachets—and Brand B does the same. This game of innovation ping-pong has everyone’s heads whipping back and forth so fast that both brands miss opportunities for potential new ideas. While Brand B was waiting to see what Brand A was going to do next, Brand C—also known as Nespresso—streaked ahead by inventing an elegant coffee system ready to deliver café-style coffee in your very own kitchen.

Yes, it’s important to keep an eye on the competition—but just one. The other needs to be looking beyond your competition for new insight and ideas in your own practice. Once you take your eye off your own ball, you run the risk of dropping it and then your “competition” will use that to their advantage.

Who exactly is the competition?

It’s easy to consider your competition as only specialists or companies that offer similar procedures. But in reality, your competition is much broader than that—it’s everyone and everything that competes for mindshare of your consumer. Considering your competition on a broader level can be a great source of inspiration.
When you approach the idea of competition with an open mind, it suddenly moves from terrifying to exciting.
Embrace competition and use it as fuel to innovate and move forward. The most successful entrepreneurs and companies make this way of thinking a habit. They frequently look for what’s out there—in a very broad sense—and see how they can take what they find and make it better and more meaningful for their customers. Not only is this a more stimulating and exciting approach to entrepreneurship—it’s also the most effective.

Differentiate Yourself

Even if there are 100 other specialists offering similar treatments and procedures to yours, the truth is every single one of them is slightly different. You’ll thrive if you find your niche and focus on that. It’s not about offering a wide variety of procedures, but rather offering a few that you really excel at, or catering to a small slice of a particular population. Stick to what you like doing, and what is efficient.

Take a small piece of the pie and make it yours. Don’t be a “Jack of all trades”.

If people are watching you, give them something to watch – constantly.

Let’s say a competitor starts reproducing “your” procedure. Rather than getting frustrated, realize that they’re only copying you because you’re kicking ass at what you’re doing. It’s not your fault that other specialists can’t come up with their own ideas.

Just don’t rest on your laurels, or they might surpass you. Keep on innovating so that you’re the model everyone wants to be.

Realize that Competitors Aren’t Always Competitors

This can be a valuable and humbling lesson. If you always treat others in your industry as competition, you can miss out on great partnership opportunities.
By looking at others in your industry as potential partners, you open yourself up to even more business.

In any business, you have to be authentically fierce and bold. Pay attention to what others are doing, and find your own path. And if they mimic you, take it as a compliment and keep moving forward.

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