By Paul Jermain, leader Entrepreneurial Training Program for the Commonwealth of Mass.

Recently, the New England Patriots NFL team played the well-regarded Chicago Bears in a Chicago blizzard. They won handily, outscoring the Bears by 29 points. Both teams had excellent track records going into the late season game. What happened?

Well, a lot happened, as it always does in exciting professional sports, but I believe one of the keys to the Patriots win was superior competitive analysis. It’s been at the foundation of their continued winning streak. To consistently win in your business, you’re going to need to pay attention to this area as well.

Winning scores on game days reflect a variety of factors: communication clarity between the coaches and quarterbacks; the active roster of players; playing conditions; and pre-game competitive analysis. Winning team competitive activities range from watching hours and hours of game films to sending scouts into the field for closer looks at competitive talent. What are they looking for? Well, basically the same things you should look for in your competition, namely, strengths and weaknesses, and the strategies that evolve from them.

In football, some teams have large linemen on the front line, a team strength which makes opposing coaches think twice about trying to carrying the ball right through them. Other teams have talented players manning their backfield coverage positions which slow opposing team efforts in that direction. At the end of the day, the strengths and weaknesses of the various teams add up to “hands” very similar to card game “hands”.  And, just as in card games, where players look to leverage the strengths of their  own “hands”, and capitalize on the anticipated weaknesses of the other players, coaches follow the same process.  Business success can be improved using the same approach, too.

Competitive business strengths include: established loyal customer bases; “deep pockets”; solid supplier relationships; experienced, talented management teams; and widely recognized brands among others. Business weaknesses include, naturally, the reverse of the fore mentioned strengths, and other things such as poor customer service; disorganized processes; poor employee morale; sub-standard technological infrastructures; etc. As in football, understanding your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, and the strategies which are based on them, will enable you to cover your own areas of vulnerability and capitalize on opportunities

For example, if you’re opening up a senior move management business and your competitors have shunned technology, you might exploit the opening by establishing a web portal where seniors looking to move, and their adult children, can always check on the status of activities via the Internet. If you’re in the interior design field, where most of the competition has tenuous arrangements with premium kitchen cabinet suppliers, you could strike exclusive distribution contracts with the cream of the crop, effectively boxing out others from the high end market. Or, you could capitalize on “bad press” which has temporarily tarnished the reputation of industry competitors.

So, if you want to post a winning record in your business, take the process of analyzing the competition seriously. Winning professional coaches use all the tools at their disposal to truly understand the strengths and weaknesses, and resulting strategies, of their opponents.  You should do the same. Invest time and effort in learning of competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, so that you can overcome their competitive strategies, and you’ll enjoy success as well.