Throughout the start-up world, you will hear the question, “Who’s your competition?” countless times. Pretty much every business planner, marketer, and strategist will ask you that question with good reason. It’s a necessary consideration to determine whether your chosen market is a sustainable choice.
Historically, the competition is someone to watch out for. Protect your “secret sauce” at all costs from the competition so they can’t steal your ideas or products. Competition, in many ways, can be good and motivating as it inspires innovation and generates excitement. We all wanted to be at the top of the class, right? Unfortunately, this mindset also sets us up for a very stressful life as an entrepreneur.
Over the years, it has become apparent to me that pitting myself, my skills and my company against the competition is based on negativity and can cause great stress, anxiety and frustration as we all claw our way to the perceived top of the proverbial mountain, only to realise once there that the mountaintop is just an illusion.
After many years in business following the relatively aggressive competition model, I started to reach out to those I had previously held at arm’s length. We discussed where our strengths lie and how we could complement each other. What did we specialise in? What did they specialise in? If we partnered, could we offer more? If we referred to each other based on expertise, could that benefit us all?
Instead of continuing to spend money on advertising that focused on how much better I was than them, I turned it around. I went against all the coaching and strategy advice I’ve been given my entire adult life about competition, and it WORKS.
Like any business relationship, not every collaboration will work out the way you envision. I have had a lot of successful collaborations, and a few I never want to discuss again, LOL. The important thing is that I didn’t give up because one or two didn’t work out.
I discovered that focusing on creating business partnerships and collaborative teams instead of how to beat the competition made most of them my friends and colleagues and much more willing to reach out, offer support or a helping hand. Instead of being wary every time we enter a room – virtual or in person – we are planning new and exciting projects that can benefit all of us.
Similarly, our family business, a bricks-and-mortar automotive business, got the same results. At first it’s challenging because we human beings are set in our ways. We don’t like change, so we tend to baulk or feel like we are not in control. Collaboration does require cooperation and an open mind.
The truth is that YOUR bottom line will improve if you realise that there really is enough work out there for all of us – and we can be better together by creating collaborations that benefit everyone.