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6 ways to survive and thrive in an ultra competitive field, according to the president and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty

6 ways to survive and thrive in an ultra competitive field, according to the president and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty
Slideshows1 min read

1. Find your own competitive advantage

1. Find your own competitive advantage

Whether your competitors are personal or professional, they likely have something that you covet. Instead of feeling like you don't measure up because you lack that particular skill or talent, focus on finding your own competitive advantage.

Look at your competition's weaknesses and see if any are your own strengths. For example, maybe someone you're competing with for a promotion isn't the best public speaker, but that's where you excel. Find opportunities to capitalize on that. Instead of getting hung up on what others do better than you, focus on what you do better than them — and continue to refine those strengths.

2. Always arrive over prepared

2. Always arrive over prepared

In many sports, the athletic feats are the most fun — running faster, scoring a goal, hitting a long drive — but ultimately, winning comes down to the details. It takes hard, consistent practice to see results in both sports and business. Let your competitors motivate you to consider every detail in preparation.

If I have a prospective client that I know is measuring us against competing companies, for instance, I start by preparing a presentation that outlines our unique value. If the client asks hard-hitting questions, I can answer confidently based on both personal and industry experience. And oftentimes, it seems that going through the steps of preparing tougher answers ensures you won't need them.

3. Prioritize your integrity over a short-term win

3. Prioritize your integrity over a short-term win

In any competitive arena, there will always be those who are willing to do whatever it takes to win. They bend the rules or take shortcuts. Basically, when there's a lot of pressure or money at stake, people will show you who they are.

While giving the rules the runaround might earn people short-term benefits, most of the time it doesn't lead to long-term success, in my experience. Developing a reputation for aboveboard business practices is critical to earning the respect of your peers and competitors. I've dealt with enough competition in life that I'm able to keep a level head and recognize that an immediate loss could lead to greater success down the line.

Be focused on solutions, but remember that it's about more than the final outcome. Is a win without integrity really much of a win? Golf is a game of honor, and it's taught me to approach business decisions with the same sincerity.

4. Respect the category you're in

4. Respect the category you

Anytime there's money on the line, there are egos involved. But this isn't always a bad thing. When Sotheby's International Realty was purchased 15 years ago, we were considered a "small brand." It wasn't an insult — we were small — but it motivated me to work hard to build the brand into what it is today, in order to earn our spot in a different category. Today, we have nearly 1,000 offices in 71 countries and territories worldwide. Honest feedback is one of the most valuable tools to motivate success.

5. Interact with the smartest people in your industry

5. Interact with the smartest people in your industry

In any industry, there are trade organizations and events that give you the opportunity to network with people from other companies. Even if these are not your direct rivals, you can still learn industry best practices. These learning opportunities can help you be more effective when you do come up against a direct competitor.

Playing golf with people at the same level as me doesn't do much to improve my game. If I want to level up, I have to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself by surrounding myself with those who are more skilled.

6. Invest the time and energy needed to sharpen your game

6. Invest the time and energy needed to sharpen your game

The more experience you have in any situation, the better equipped you'll be to perform under pressure. Conversely, taking shortcuts will eventually catch up with you. The same applies to the business world. Cross-training to learn new skills or doing a deep dive into your own role is going to give you an edge. You never know how expanding your skill set could serve you when it's crunch time.

Individual sports have taught me how to use my competitive nature to my advantage, stay cool under pressure, and maintain my integrity — habits I've worked hard to extend to my career. Now, competition is my main motivator for staying sharp and focused in order to achieve my personal best.

Philip White is president and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty where he drives the network's strategic growth as a leading provider of luxury residential real estate services.

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