Crush the Competition: 3 Ways to Get Ahead in Business

Crush the Competition: 3 Ways to Get Ahead in Business

Crush the Competition: 3 Ways to Get Ahead in Business with Jeff Rojas

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

As a business owner, you’re constantly battling the competition. In an ever-evolving market, it can be exhausting to keep up. This month, I show you how to crush the competition.

Remember: You are the competition. Everyone else is just a benchmark.

I went to my first hockey game recently with a friend and client, Mark, who was introducing me to the sport. He’s a tech entrepreneur I admire whose business has been vetted by all the biggest social platforms, along with major hitters in the entertainment industry. He and his two business partners are killing the tech game.

I digress. Mark starts discussing the dynamics of the sport and why certain players are so important to their team. He says that as a child, he loved playing hockey and that there was no better feeling than when you scored a goal and your team cheered for you. You were the rock star for that moment in time. The crowd didn’t matter. He turns to me and asks which position I’d play.

I sit for a few seconds thinking about it. “Who’s the best person on that ice right now?” I ask.

Mark points at a guy on the ice.

“I want to be better than that guy,” I say.

He asks me why.

“It wouldn’t matter if anyone else knew,” I answer, “but as long as I’m better than that guy, then I know I’m the best, and that makes me feel happy.” I believe everyone has one leading trait that guides them. I’m competitive. I’ve always been competitive. I’ll always be competitive. That’s who I am.

Here’s the thing about being the best: You have to be wise with whom you’re comparing your success against, because it could be hindering your progress. I say that because most artists are so focused on their specific market, they forget how big the world is. If you’re a goldfish in a fishbowl comparing yourself to other goldfish, you’ll be only as good as the best person in that bowl. If your goal is to be a shark, then you need to focus on how to swim with the sharks. That’s the simplest mindset to have.

If you’re training with the pros, chances are you are light-years ahead of local competition. Think about that the next time you’re hung up on your competitor’s next award or victory. Think bigger. Find better mentors. Hang around better people. Be better.

Here’s a personal example. Every week, I pull social media reports on the largest names in the photography industry. Without naming anyone, I’ll show you how I benchmark everything from my successes to my social stats against people I’m striving to reach.

Figure 1.2 shows my social stats in a single week against five industry leaders. While I’m still in sixth place in followers, my active growth and engagement is far greater than that of my competitors. Through that benchmarking process, I’ve learned how to craft my content in such a way that it resonates better than that of my peers, which has allowed my brand to outperform my competitors if we average our stats for audience versus engagement ratio. This is the methodology that can reach 1.2 million on Facebook this year, a million minutes watched on YouTube, etc.

Your brain’s perception of what you’re capable of is the only thing hindering you from what you want to accomplish. As the old saying goes, “Work until your idols become your rivals,” and once you’ve reached that step, find new idols.

Stop talking and start doing.

These days, it seems like everyone is either a “photographer” or an “entrepreneur.” The truth is, 99 percent of people who claim either are full of crap. We’ve all seen them, the relative with a camera who is a “photographer,” but really makes his money working in an office Monday through Friday. If that’s your gig, that’s great. I respect that you’re putting food on your family’s table, but you’re not a professional photographer unless you’re making your income from photography. Professional photographers make their living from photography, not accounting. In that same respect, you’re not an entrepreneur just because you’re working for yourself or because you’re trying to work for yourself.

“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.”
–Harvard Business School Professor Howard Stevenson

I always tell aspiring photography professionals that they need to be an entrepreneur first and an artist second. Photography isn’t easy, but learning how to adapt to an evolving market and client expectations becomes paramount when you’re trying to grow or start your business. Resources should not be a problem when you’re beginning a business. Any great businessperson can turn $1 into $1,000 if they’re resourceful. That’s the attitude I expect my peers to have.

This is why I appreciate action over talk. It’s great to have plans, but it’s always better to accomplish them. I’ve found that most people talk more about their dreams and aspirations than they actually spend trying to accomplish them, and it frustrates me. Why? Everyone is capable of grandeur if they’re willing to work for it.

Here’s the secret to accomplishing long-term plans: Dissect them into smaller, more manageable pieces.

I wrote two books last year. Anyone who’s written a book (or an article) can tell you that it’s just like high school. Most of us just sit there and stare at a blank screen if we don’t have ideas in front of us. The worst thing to do when you have a large project is to try to accomplish it all at once, which leads to procrastination. Dissect that project into smaller pieces.

When I’m writing a book or article, I write a working title and a brief description. From there, I break that content into three to five manageable sections and then break each of those into subsections. If you read my Photographing Women last year, you noticed the book is divided into three sections: Theory, Posing and Lighting. While it makes it easier for the audience to understand the content, it makes it easier for me to write because I’m able to break down the content by section and then feel like I’m getting things accomplished quickly.

People who get things done always outperform people who talk about it. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

Remember that copycats can’t make the cut.

Worried about someone stealing your style or replicating your work? Get over it. After I published Photographing Men, some of my own peers tried emulating my lighting, retouching and posing, which flattered me. Why? Because it told me I was doing well, that I was onto the next best thing.

“They can imitate your style, but they can’t imitate your creativity”
–Sonya Teclai,

This is why I find it interesting that so many photographers spend the time trashing their competition for mimicking their lighting, styling or businesses. If you spent that time working and growing as a businessperson instead of complaining, you’d grow your business more quickly. Those five hours you spend each week writing emails and commenting on social media are much better spent on technique and business. Focus on what you can control.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

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