Very useful diagnostic question here.
If you're in business for yourself, freelancing, or contracting, it's worth asking from time to time.
The gap between "#1" and anything else is tremendous... being #2, #3, or #4 is far worse.
Oftentimes, a product or service is totally sufficient, and loses out on being "#1" only because of a lack of polish and attention to detail. Oftentimes, you don't need a radical reinvention of what you're doing, but just by improving every area of your finishing touches, quality control, speed, and service -- just a tiny bit -- you can break through to parity with the best.
Then, you layer one or two extra fantastic features on top of it, and you're #1.
It's hard work. Sort of.
It's actually often not hard work, but it requires submitting your ego to the fact that you're not already the best, and getting over "not invented here" syndrome.
Which is a lot easier to say than it is to do.
We just had a client who we had just about wrapped up a job for, who incidentally, had also done very similar work around the same with a competitor. The competitor started before us, and was being paid higher fees than us (which we only learned later).
Towards the end of our project, our client -- a very savvy guy -- started to look for us to elevate our performance and do little tiny finishing touches that our competitor had put into action.
This is one of the best things to happen to us.
We were forced to study, concretely faithfully diligently intensely study, the little touches this competitor had created that we had not. We wound up implementing a number of them, improving our performance, and inventing some new technology and processes to look to exceed them going forwards.
It also required us to see a couple very creative things they did, and just straight-up make our own implementation of them... what's interesting is that duplicating a competitor's functionality led us to almost no psychological satisfaction, whereas inventing our own did.
...even though the duplicated functionality was probably more useful to our client.
There were no patents involved, no intellectual property, and we didn't even follow their exact methodology -- we implemented our own way. There were no barriers of that sort. But there was a huge psychological barrier, in that we wanted and preferred to "do our own thing" in some perhaps subconscious way, rather than just be committed to being the best for our clients, regardless of ego.
It's hard, very hard, to get over this. We got lucky in a way.
But this question is a useful start:
"Are we #1 in quality? Why not?"
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