Does building a relationship with your closest business competitors sound like the worst advice you’ve ever heard? While it does go contrary to how we typically approach competition in the marketplace, it has its advantages: You’ll get much further in business by having strategic relationships in place with core competitors as it will increase your knowledge and understanding of the field, reduce unhealthy rivalry and even lead to new opportunities through strength in numbers. Here’s how to open the lines of communications in a professional and mutually beneficial way:
1. Emphasise ‘community over competition’
To build a relationship with a competitor, you must first break down the barriers that exist between your businesses. Today’s world is bottom line and productivity focused. It tells every business that there’s a limited number of seats at the table and they need to fight for each one. In realty, keeping every small business small and separate means that nobody has a chance to shine except for a few outliers. When broaching an initial conversation with a competitor, emphasize this fact.
2. Create a community
Once you’ve gotten a competitor on board and communicating with you, take time to talk about your mutual challenges. Often a problem that cannot be resolved by itself can be resolved in larger numbers. You might find that collective bargaining powers help you to negotiate better rates and deals from suppliers, or help you to expand your business into certain areas or new markets. You’ll never know what your competitor has in common with you, unless you ask.
3. Have each other’s back
Once you’ve started a community in an industry or area of expertise, it’s time to examine the positive qualities each has, and how this can lead to a mutual beneficial situation. For example, company A might have a strong logistical network, so they could take on work from Company B, which doesn’t have a broad geographical reach. In return, company B could take on backlogged customer orders from Company A that they don’t have time to do themselves. It’s unlikely your competitors will have nothing of value to offer you, so make sure you have each other’s back.
You might be pleasantly surprised at where a competitor relationship takes you. While it’s never a guaranteed that things will work out, keep in mind that you won’t know until you try.