On several occasions in the past, I’ve avoided contact with a business competitor if I thought it would give them an advantage. Maybe they will analyse the way we do things, sell a product we sell or – heaven forbid – get close to a customer!
Over the last few years, I have come to realise that many of the companies I thought were competitors are not. Look at your own business – even if your competitors offer many of the similar services you do, are they really competition to you? Consider:
- Geographic reach: Your customers and prospects are likely to be local to you – or at least close.
- Services: Do your customers enjoy a service that’s specific to you – or at least one you excel at?
- Relationship: Do you have a great, personal relationship with your customer? (not replaceable unless you screw-up)
If the answer is “yes” to all of these, then it’s highly unlikely that someone you think of as a “competitor” is likely to be the nemesis you perceive. In fact, I would go as far to say that you could be doing yourself a disservice by keeping yourself isolated from them.
Of course, competition is very real, but examine those with similar (but not identical) businesses to yours and see if there isn’t synergy, rather that competition, between you. In those circumstances, getting to know and reaching out will find a partner, rather than a competitor.
- Geographic reach: Do you operate in an area where the other business needs to provide service?
- Services: Do you have a skill, service or product that the other business doesn’t have?
- Relationship: Does your AND their relationship with your and their customers allow you both to increase sales by providing BETTER service?
Our business now offers a variety of services (in our case, web and software development) that did not used to be a core part of our portfolio – now provided through the use of other “IT companies” who actually specialise in these areas. Information Technology may be one of those businesses with a huge scope for collaboration but I urge you to look at your trade and see who you should be working with to your customers benefit. They’ll thank you for it.