I began thinking about this topic last night while watching an episode of Better Call Saul, where he was intentionally copying a competitor. It was a humorous show, but it brought up my past feelings of having this happen to me. For any entrepreneur, having your work and/or ideas stolen is going to happen at some point in your career. In my experience, the more successful you become, the more you are copied. I feel like this is harder for women and seems to happen more. I am not sure if it actually does happen more to women or perhaps just that we discuss it more and that I have more female business owners as acquaintances versus males. However, it is frustrating and can make us want to act out. I am here to tell you not to. As difficult as it may be, imitation truly is the most sincere form of flattery. It may not feel that way, but in this post I am going to talk about how to handle it and why it is happening.
How it feels
It feels like what I imagine possession aggression would feel like for a dog; a flood of anger and wanting to reclaim the item as your own. One of my first experiences with this was when I was browsing competitors’ websites online and found our identical rates content on a local competitor’s page. This information belonged to me. I first felt angry and betrayed by this person, but was honestly more shocked at how blatantly obvious it was that this person had just copied directly from me. And in some other situations, I have even felt threatened. I thought about what type of person actually does this? And as I was to learn; many people do and it will continue to surprise you who will. I have gained better coping skills, but have consistently felt disappointment and frustration each time this happens. And many times, I have felt incredibly hurt.
What to do
Nothing. I know, this does not feel like the right answer, does it? What if I told you to feel proud of yourself instead? When someone else has copied you, whether it be your content, a service offering or any part of your business, it indicates that you are a leader in your field and that others are aspiring to build their business up like your organization. You are doing something right and others are recognizing this and wanting to emulate what you have created. And that is something to be very proud of.
However, there may be more serious situations that involve a response, including legal representation. I have known people who have had full articles duplicated, images stolen and exact programs replicated. We had a past student use our tag line for their business, and although we did not have it trademarked, we did contact them asking them to remove it. Which they did and apologized for using it. However, not everyone will respond this way, but this person must not have expected us to see this and they were (and should have been!) quite embarrassed by it.
In our most serious case, I did get our lawyer involved. We had a local not-for-profit group successfully complete our dog trainer apprenticeship program, only to launch an identical program within months of graduating ours. We were the only ones in Canada to offer a program like this and they copied the entire outline and content of our program. This one really hurt. I had spent years helping this organization and sharing the information and I was angry. We do have a copyright on the program, but my lawyer advised me that these laws do not do well at protecting us and it would be a potentially costly and long battle ahead. I contemplated enrolling someone in the program to gain access to the materials and was faced with a rush of different ideas on how to handle it. In the end, I tried to reason with the organization and come to a compromise, with no success. I had never spent the amount of time I poured into this program on anything else, and was left feeling resentful and almost ended the program.
Looking back I may have fought more, but I was in the process of opening our second location. I just did not have the energy, time or funds to pursue it. My lessons learned were how to further protect myself and learning more about copyrights and intellectual property. Although, I am disappointed at how little protection there is out there, you can find some great resources and ways to protect yourself in Canada here.
My lessons learned
I learned some valuable lessons outside of just how to protect myself and a lot of good has come from these negative situations. I know it is not an easy process, but I hope that if you are faced with this in your future, that you can remember these three lessons to help get you through or avoid the feelings of anger, frustration and hurt.
1. Put on your blinders
Stop paying attention to what others are doing. Put your blinders on and focus on your own work. Pursue all of your crazy, wonderful ideas and utilize your increased focus to put a plan in place and get them started. Stay off competitor’s websites and social media and pay attention to what you are doing. Keep focused on yourself and enjoy the positive energy and output you will receive by doing this.
2. Support each other
Too often we keep to ourselves and try to hoard all of our ideas and thoughts. Get out and join associations or networking events to meet other like-minded business owners. Celebrate the successes of your competition and find ways to support each other. Their success does not mean you will not find success yourself. The more positive feedback you put out into the world, the more you will receive. Open yourself up to this and immediately start receiving the benefits. Women need to do a better job at supporting each other and being proud of each other for our individual successes. What a powerful group we are and what amazing things we can accomplish when we work together.
3. Believe in yourself and karma
You can do amazing things, and if others are copying you, it means you are already doing so. You are the one with the passion, the drive, the positive energy and everything else that is creating your business. If someone else is copying something, they are missing all of that, so will never gain the success you have. They are missing the most important part: you. Know that karma is a powerful tool and as long as you focus on the right things and strive to make a change in the world, that the universe is going to help you accomplish that. Those who steal and copy are creating negativity for themselves, and in turn, that’s what they will receive. Forget about them and just know that karma will handle them for you :).
What have you experienced in your business in regards to possession aggression? What helps get you through this? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!