Is Imitation Flattery?
Oscar Wilde said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness."
Whenever you do something different from others, people will start to take notice of you. It's inevitable. They may think that they can do what you do. They may even try their hand at it.
Should you be worried?
As bookkeepers, we are in a profession that, whether we like it or not, has a really low barrier to entry. There's not a huge amount of investment involved in setting up a practice. Even the term "bookkeeper" is not protected in law. Anyone, regardless of their qualifications, can set up as a bookkeeper.
We've all had that feeling in the pit of our stomach when we see a new practice open near us. That feeling seems irrational, but also the most normal thing in the world. The truth is, though, that there's more than enough work out there for all of us. Don't think of the new practice as competition, but rather as an ally in getting the message out there that small businesses need the support of a good bookkeeper.
A rising tide lifts all boats
What about when they start to emulate the unique services that you've taken months planning and developing? It can hurt, but it's rare that we have something that's so totally unique that at least one other person isn't doing it. One thing that The Bookkeepers Alliance has shown us is that we all borrow ideas from each other and put our own spin on them. We can all benefit.
Others can copy ideas, but the uniqueness in your practice, your secret sauce, is you. No one can copy that. Your desire to always be on your A-game. To always improve upon the services that you offer your clients. It can be infuriating when you see someone using every new idea that you come up with, but they can never copy your plan. They'll always be playing catch up.
When it stops being flattery
Sometimes, it can go further than flattery. There is a line. Borrowing ideas that you then build into your practice is one thing, but I've experienced the extension of that too.
Back in 2013, I found that not one person, but 7 were copying the exact text from my website on theirs. It was infuriating, but a quick email and they were all removed. This is when imitation becomes something much different indeed.
As bookkeepers, we'd love to think that others in our profession shared our ethics and morals, but that's not always the case.
This never really goes away. As The Bookkeepers Alliance, we get ideas from others, and others get ideas from us. We even get the imitation. Although I still get that feeling in the pit of my stomach, I actually get excited too. When someone does what you do it feels like a very strange form of validation. Like they're saying "You're doing great!"
Very occasionally, but also very recently, we experienced that dark side once again where someone blatantly used one of our documents in their own site.
It would be very easy to allow ourselves to be consumed by this. Don't. Keep doing what you're doing. Be at the forefront of the profession. Create new ideas that people want to copy.
Be you, and never stop.