All too often in business we view the competition with a critical eye and have difficulty seeing and acknowledging things they are doing particularly well. Not only does this take away a valuable opportunity to learn, but it also closes us off to new opportunities outside of our immediate business.
Of course competition is healthy, but if we are willing to get past the essence of rivalry, there is much to be gained from collaborating with our competition. They are, after all, doing the same type of work we are, marketing to the same audience and creating businesses much like our own. This makes the competition ideal collaboration partners for just about any type of business.
The ideal format for a collaboration is a specific project that has measurable and identified goals, and there are some general principles of collaboration that can make new relationships get off on the right foot:
- Identify a common problem, challenge or issue
- Establish a relationship and take time to get to know the other person
- Listen well and let the other person express themselves freely without criticism, even if their point of view differs from your own
- Be respectful, considerate and friendly
- Start slow and let the natural momentum move the collaboration along
- Pick a collaboration partner with different but complementary skills
Keep in mind that collaborating with your competition doesn’t mean you give up being competitive when going after business. The most successful businesses, however, find ways to work with their competition strategically that is beneficial for both parties.
Ways to Collaborate
Every collaborative opportunity doesn’t have to be focused on a specific project. There are a number of other ways you can align yourself with your competition:
- Referrals: If you receive an inquiry from a prospective client that does not fit your skill set or your plate is full, refer that prospect to a colleague instead of just passing on the opportunity.
- Mentoring/Knowledge Sharing: You can start your own mentoring program, or help out a newcomer in the industry on an informal basis.
- Joint Ventures: Have you recently launched a product or service that seems to mesh with the products or services of another professional? Join forces for double marketing, double reach and double impact.
- Affiliate Opportunities: Many successful businesses have affiliate programs in place to reward their colleagues for helping to promote their endeavors. If you understand, appreciate and respect the cause, join the affiliate program, and create your own to help market your products and services.
The key to successfully collaborating with the competition is keeping an open mind and being willing to learn and share your own knowledge. If you go into any collaboration with that frame of mind, you will likely find success.
How do you view your competition? Do you take advantage of opportunities for collaboration?
Image credit: arte_ram