Growthink's Dave Lavinsky Reveals How to Gain Competitive Advantage in Business

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Dave Lavinsky encourages entrepreneurs to get out of the trap of imitating their competition and to start outthinking them.

Dave Lavinsky, co-founder and President of Growthink

The entrepreneurs and companies that will prosper and outpace their competitors during the next two decades will be those that outthink their competitors strategically, not outmuscle them operationally. This is according to Growthink President Dave Lavinsky, who since 1999 has helped thousands of entrepreneurs start and grow their own business.

“Specifically, the winning companies will craft a focused strategy that gives them a distinctive advantage. Conversely, too many companies try to compete by imitating their competitors. A successful strategy is one that makes competition almost irrelevant,” said Lavinsky.

In order to get to the place where a business has no direct competition, Lavinsky advises entrepreneurs to stop playing the game by the same rules as everyone else, and to embark on a strategy that changes the rules in their favor.

Lavinsky highlights the following as signs that a business has fallen into the imitation mode trap:

  • Copy what competitors are doing
  • Attempt to outpromote and outsell them
  • Attempt to outmanufacture them
  • Attempt to outservice them

“All of this results in a race with no will just be brief leads and falling behind again. It leads to incremental advancement only, often fleeting, and certainly isn't going to help you dominate your market,” said Lavinsky.

Lavinsky goes onto to highlight examples of where businesses have dominated their market with an innovative new approach.

“Let me give you an example of market dominance by discussing the market for cigarette lighters. Most cigarette lighters are disposable and cost 99 cents or so. However, rather than playing the price game (a race with no finish line), Zippo has turned the game on its head by specializing in more expensive, higher quality lighters that sell for $15-35 each-or more, for certain collector's editions,” said Lavinsky.

“Another example is IKEA, whose distinctive strategy sets it apart from other furniture dealers. Ever walked through an IKEA store? I doubt you'll find a larger selection anywhere else selling furniture so inexpensively. Why? Because their strategy targets customers who are willing to assemble furniture themselves (relatively easily) in order to save a bundle. The furniture's materials can be compactly packaged for shipping still in the box, at a much lower cost than shipping, say, an assembled dining room table that takes up a lot more space,” he said.

The point that Lavinsky is keen for entrepreneurs to take home with them is to never play the game according to the rules the leader has set.

“Don't try to outdo the top dog at their own unique strengths they've spent years or decades developing. They know the rules better-after all, they designed them! The joy of entrepreneurship is finding a game worth playing!Find things competitors are lacking in, or-even better-reach markets they're not reaching. No matter how big they are, no one company can be everything to everyone.”

According to Lavinsky, “when you change the rules, you neutralize and paralyze the leader. The odds are they are so entrenched in doing business the way they have, and have grown so large, that they're slow to change. You can make a lot of progress while they're catching up.”

To help business owners developed this new business mindset, Lavinsky has revealed questions that all entrepreneurs should ask themselves:

  • What can you excel at?

“The odds are your leading competitor has achieved success because they dominate in some area. So what? You don't have to compete against them, remember? Ask yourself what your company can excel at, and you'll attract customers no matter how big a competitor is who's not serving their needs as well,” said Lavinsky.

  • Where do you see opportunities for leverage?

“Successful companies leverage their unique set of capabilities (things that make you excellent) across as many products, markets, and people as possible. Often this is done through alliances with strategic partners and other opportunities for synergy.”

  • What new products or services could you innovate?

“No matter how much advertising and distribution a monster competitor has in place, they still can't profit from a product or service they don't offer. Creating a new product or service, or specializing in an overlooked product/service category can make you the best in the eyes of certain customers,” says Lavinsky.

  • How's your implementation?

According to Lavinsky, “the best strategy in the world still won't bring results if it isn't executed. This is where your project planning and management skills will come in handy, to see your dreams through to completion.”

In summary, Lavinsky is keen for entrepreneurs to make substantial gains at their competitor's expense and tilt the playing field in their advantage.

“Choose a strategy that helps you sidestep the copycat game, and build your strategic plan around it,” said Lavinsky.

“As General Sun Tzu, famous Chinese war strategist, would say, ‘to subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill’.”

About Growthink

Growthink provides business planning services and training products to help entrepreneurs start, grow, and successfully exit their businesses. For more strategy tips, go to To download Growthink's business plan template, visit To learn about Growthink's business plan services, visit

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Raquel A. Castillo
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