I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this: As a small business owner, it’s important to understand that a competitor is not your enemy. I know this isn’t the standard doctrine of thought, but I’ve found you can benefit more by partnering with your competition than you can by alienating them (and no, this isn’t a “keep your enemies closer” tactic).
There are quite a few things to gain when you extend both an olive branch and a handshake to your competitors—some of which can improve your business and bottom line.
Here are a few reasons why you should partner with a competitor who runs a company that’s similar to yours:
Learn from their example
We’ve all had heroes we look up to and who we’d like to emulate in some way. You can do the same with a competitor. If they’re finding success running their business a certain way—whether it’s through social media, content marketing, or excellent customer service—it can’t hurt to learn from them and determine if it makes sense for your business as well.
Referrals, referrals, referrals
There are a few ways that referrals can help build a strong partnership between companies with similar services, which include:
Pass the buck
Did a customer mention they need a business line or service you don’t offer? Send them to your competitor if you know they can help.
For example, although Golden Gait is able to staff positions on an interim or long term basis, outsourcing an entire accounting department is not a service we provide. I have relationships with two companies who provide this service and I’m able to say to my client, “We aren’t able to fill this need, but I’m happy to recommend someone who we’ve worked closely with before."
I’ve been fortunate to get to know a group of people, consultants, and companies through introductions from common acquaintances. When they were short-handed on quick or long-term projects, we were more than happy to provide them with support. I’ve also used their resource pool to help staff larger projects. Personally, this approach has allowed me to provide the best possible service to my clients.
…and be open to receiving
What goes around comes around. If you’ve been giving referrals to a partner or competitor, there’s a much greater chance they’ll do the same for you if the opportunity arises. This isn’t a guarantee or something you should expect, but it is a nice bonus when it does happen.
Any good partnership is one where both parties grow together. I will sometimes partner with my competitors on areas where we both want to gain experience. We’ll then take on projects where we can build our knowledge base by sharing ideas, information and introductions. Though we realize there may be some projects we’ll end up competing on, we know the benefit of working together as colleagues is much greater than seeing each other as enemies.
Have you worked with your competition before? How did it turn out for you?