This blog is Part II of our exclusive Masterclass Series, “Your First Million” with 7-Figure Club Member and entrepreneur AdreAnne Tesene.
Missed Part I? Get the scoop on AdreAnne’s first Two Bostons store, first hire, and first million here.
Angela: Welcome back! Let’s pick up where we left off. You were sharing about the opening of your second store… but there was a specific reason you chose that space.
AdreAnne: Right! I only signed that lease because I heard a competitor was looking at the same location, and I was not going to let that happen. I became even more determined to make it work.
Angela: That is one way to beat your competitor! It’s really common for entrepreneurs to feel discouraged, especially when the market is so saturated.
AdreAnne: Yeah. It’s not hard to feel discouraged. But sometimes, you really have to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t control. Don’t waste energy on what the other person is doing.
“Be aware of your competition, but don’t worry about it.”
In fact, feeling my competitors hot on my heels was even more motivating to improve the business.
Angela: What were the biggest changes you made as a result? How did you up your game?
AdreAnne: Well, for example, when we opened that second store in the location our competitors had looked at, we created a lot of new and improved systems for running the business, from day to day operations to upper management. This second location actually turned out to be our most successful store because of that… and now we model all of our stores off of that location!
Angela: And how many other stores did you open?
AdreAnne: Since then we opened a third and fourth.
Angela: That’s fabulous. So aside from improving your internal systems, how else has competition helped you uplevel your business?
AdreAnne: Two of my stores are 3 miles apart from each other, and a big competitor actually moved in right smack dab between them.
Again, it was tempting to feel nervous. We knew it was a real possible threat… research shows that anytime a competitor comes into your area, you’re lucky if you only lose 20% of business in a year.
But we also knew it could be a positive game-changer, so we switched gears and asked ourselves, “How can we step up our game?” We acted proactively, getting our team involved. Instead of telling them what they need to do, I empowered them to come up with their own list.
I challenged our team by asking, “What are you going to do to make sure your customers, who you’ve built relationships with, will come and shop with us instead of going down the road.”
And then last November, the same competitor opened two stores sandwiching my biggest store.
I was aware of it, but I wasn’t worried.
Taking that direction is what made sure we were up at least 10% both times that happened, instead of allowing ourselves to be down 20%. We held our own.
Focus on what you can do. Don’t waste energy on what the other person is doing. Be aware, but don’t worry about it.
Angela: So by empowering your employees with tools to build the business, you grew your growth potential! But it also seems like, when you were surrounded by competitors, you figured out what made you UNIQUE from them. How did you do that?
AdreAnne: Yes. One of the first things we did was send a survey to our customers. That helped us understand what they’re looking for and what they need, so we could target those needs in our marketing. We started to say, “Hey, THIS is why you should buy your food at Two Bostons, we’re going to donate a meal to the local shelter,” instead of saying, “Don’t buy from our competitor.”
We also tried to stand out from the crowd. When others were doing “Buy 12, Get 1 Free” we did “Buy 10, Get 1 Free.”
Angela: So you empowered yourself with data, both from your customers and from the competitors, and made strategic decisions. Did that pay off?
AdreAnne: 1000%. In fact, we just opened our 4th store this week. And every time we open a store, we get better and better at having things in place for a smoother ride than before. This time, the biggest thing I got better at was leading. Before things got real, we had lists in place and divvied them up appropriately. (Although, I have to admit I couldn’t let the massive trip to the office supply store go to anyone else. I wanted to be the one to buy the stapler and tape dispenser for some crazy reason! “Next time,” I said to myself. “Next time, someone else can buy the damn stapler!”)
Angela: So ANOTHER thing the competition helped you with was to uplevel your personal leadership?
AdreAnne: Definitely. I knew the business had to grow fast, so I pushed myself to delegate, train, and lead at key moments.
I put my assistant in charge of ordering the back stock freezer and accepting deliveries of the bakery cases and register stands. She did a great job keeping the contractor on task. She did such a great job that we were able to open early. How’s that for efficiency?
Not only did all of this happen, but it all happened while my husband and I enjoyed two weeks in Singapore and Bali. We came right home, got to work, and opened this beautiful (if I do say so myself) store a week later. Boom!
It wasn’t magic, but pretty close. When you turn that corner and become a leader who feels comfortable empowering your team to not only pick out the color of scissors to purchase, but also the color of floor stain to use in your new store I swear some magical fairy dust really does start swirling around a bit… and great things can happen.
Another important lesson that occurred was during the chaos (you would call this beautiful chaos. I just call it sweaty crazy chaos.) a few days before opening. We had piles, pallets, and pyramids of products waiting to be received, stickered and put on shelves. My receivers and managers were feeling overwhelmed….and then another huge delivery truck showed up. They all looked at each other with big eyes. One put her hands over her face as though if she couldn’t see what was happening, it would all go away. There were a few, “Oh, shit!”s heard. I took all of this in and decided to have a quick pow wow. I put my best Mom Voice on and said, “I need to talk to all of you really quick.” They all looked at me while giving most of their attention to the truck backing up to our door. “I really need all eyes on me. Don’t worry about the delivery right now. I need you to hear what I’m saying.”
I got their attention.
“We all have two choices right now. One is to freak out and allow ourselves to become overwhelmed. I guarantee this will make for a long and frustrating day. Another is to admit we have a bit of a mess in front of us and be ok with it. The deliveries are not going to stop showing up. It’s all how we choose to look at them. I’m choosing to look at them as progress and I need you to do the same. Trust me on this and everything will be more than fine. In fact, it should be fun to see all of this come together.”
That little pep talk is all they needed to get focused. As a leader, I could have rolled my eyes at their sense of overwhelm and barked out orders. I choose to empower them to make the right decision on how to learn to react to these situations. I’m choosing to use these moments to make them better leaders themselves.
How will your competitors drive you to grow? Answer these questions.
Improve (or create!) systems for running your business so you can scale and expand.
Figure out what makes your business unique + valuable by collecting data from customers. Use this data in your marketing.
Focus on your leadership, delegation, and training your team so they can support you. If you don’t have a team, determine what you could delegate to increase productivity and have you spending time on higher ROI activities like marketing, advertising, or PR.