Keep an eye on competitors, but keep their eyes off your stuff.

Keep an eye on your competitors.

You must keep an eye on your competitors.

You’re in a competitive market. Whether you succeed or fail depends on how well you perform in competition with your competitors. This means knowing at all times what they’re up so that your shop isn’t left behind in the event that they’re offering a new type of product or technology.

This doesn’t mean you have to hire spies or private detectives—there are perfectly legitimate and legal ways to keep an eye on your competitors and you should use them.

The flip side of this though is that you should expect your competitors to keep an eye on you too so be careful to protect proprietary information. A simple way of doing this is shredding all documentation that goes into the trash.

If you think this is a bit over the top, it’s not. I knew a shop owner who dumpster dived behind a competitor’s shop one weekend and came away with all kinds of useful information such as duplicate invoices, customer lists, correspondence, artwork etc.