How to keep ahead of the competition and stay on top of your game.

By Brent Ritz

A great leader is one people trust and follow without hesitation during the most challenging times. It may seem like a great idea to start and run a business, but do you have the drive and ambition required to make a success of it?

Even business veterans need to check on their leadership and management techniques to keep ahead of competition and stay top of their game.

Here are four ways to be an effective leader and drive growth. 

1. Know your market

Take a look at the competition. You need to analyze what makes competitors successful and consider how those same strategies can drive your business’s growth. You should determine overlaps and differences and hone in on new business areas or processes that can help your business. However, make sure not to directly copy your competitors, as you must be unique and have your own USP. That shouldn’t stop you from looking, learning and adjusting, however.

It’s also incredibly important to know and listen to your clients. This applies to all areas of business, especially to your online and digital presence. Without knowing what drives customers to buy, seek information or use services, it is impossible to give them any form of valuable user-interface experience. Research and understand the social, cultural and economic backgrounds of your target market and customer, identify if that differs from your current customer base and work out what you can do to align. 

Your user experience must be optimized for visual appeal and performance across all platforms; mobile optimization and screen-loading speed matter. After all, you have less than three seconds to make an impression. 

2. Understand your business inside and out

You should always understand your customers, markets and sales processes. Without understanding the nuts and bolts, how can you know what works and what doesn’t? 

Build the business models, flowcharts and processes around the people and business. Steve Jobs used to work customer service every day for three hours, and he scheduled his meetings around it. This contributed to Apple’s massive success: Jobs knew what the problems were and what people wanted, so he built products to fill that need. 

You are guaranteed to fail if you’re not committed to being actively involved, learning the sociology and workflow — no matter how good you think you are. You must define objectives and strategies to fuel success, and this must be a continual process.

3. Measure and adjust

It’s critical to monitor, measure and adjust to your operating environment. Data and knowledge are of no value if not used to inform the future.

Ask yourself some key questions:

• Do you see inefficiencies and new opportunities?

• What have you learned?

• How do you monitor your performance?

• What could you change to identify issues and opportunities more speedily?

• Are you prepared to change to become more effective?

• Have you adjusted your plan as a result?

• Are you able to teach others and share findings?

• Have you developed mastery?

Running a business has to extend beyond setting it up and letting it be. You have to be passionate and driven to succeed, which requires a continued effort and commitment to adapting as necessary. Being reactive means you are behind. Your competitors and customers will not stand still; neither should you.

4. Plan ahead

You don’t have to keep a diary with tomorrow or even next month’s activities listed. Planning where you want to be with your business in more distant points in the future is what is important. Think about five to ten years from now and outline how you envision expansion. Set some key targets along the way for you to gauge progress against. It could be by upscaling production, having an assistant or upskilling yourself or workforce to diversify into other areas. One thing is certain, however: If you think small, you will stay small.  

Running a successful business takes commitment, hard work and ambition. Keep your eye on the road, your hand on the wheel and set your own course. Be involved in every aspect, be critical and strive to understand and meet customer demands. After all, you’re in the driver’s seat, responsible for your business’s growth. 

About the author, Brent Ritz is the founder of UBER. At one point in time, Ritz maintained 16 qualifications and licenses, primarily in finance. Ritz has studied design, real estate, business administration and law.