In my world

08 October, 2010
Page 20 

Umer Ashraf is a young entrepreneur who owns the Glasgow-based iCafé chain of shops, as well as smoothie and juice bar Paradise Bay in Oban, Scotland

What is the best way to view competition? This important question was raised at a senior management meeting within my business earlier in September.

I have always believed that if you do something well each time every time success and rewards will follow automatically. For some, this may mean money; for others it is recognition. But whatever rewards you seek, they will come if you concentrate on the core.

"A sure sign of a weak company is one that frets over the competition" is a phrase I read somewhere and, for me, it rings very true. In my opinion the best way to deal with competition is simple: ignore it. The greatest leaders don't care what the competition think, they just wake up with an obsession to make their own business better than before. It's not about providing more features or better pricing than someone else; it's about knowing what you stand for. In turn, this attracts loyal customers and dedicated employees, which provides a greater business advantage than pitting yourself against a rival.

Having attended a conference recently, after a whole day of talks, seminars and networking, I summarised the day with this: if you need help adjusting your attitude, you should start re-evaluating your motivations; and if you're just chasing some market opportunity, it will be tough to adopt a true leadership perspective.

Most entrepreneurs I know started their businesses because they were passionate about their ideas. But as things progress, it is easy to be consumed by the daily grind and forget the original vision. So if you're insecure or stressed-out, remind yourself why you took all those risks in the first place and renew that feeling.

It's amazing how much you can achieve by simply writing ideas down and revisiting them every so often. I have this 'board of vision' in my office, where I always pin the goals I want to achieve. That way, every time I come to work, it reminds me of where I want to be, which enables me to redirect my energies towards that goal. I strongly recommend starting something similar to this that works for you.

In terms of the business, we have had steady growth in the past six weeks and things are looking pretty healthy for the next quarter. In my next column, I will discuss this and share some of the ideas, including how these have helped me grow the business, despite some very challenging times out there.

A big thank you to each and every one of my team across the four shops, as well as my management team, who work very hard and are very passionate about their work. I will talk a little about them in my next column too.

For now, however, I will leave you with a quote: "Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life."





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