“You’re what? You’re going into that business? But I do that?”
Such were the words of a colleague of mine when I excitedly told her that I was going into business. Yes, we exist in a free market economy where business owners take on a “dog eat dog” persona. Many hold on to the false belief that I must take from you to get more for me. But if I have learnt one thing while being in business, is that there is plenty of room to share. The very meaning of the word ‘trade’ involves an exchange, i.e. sharing what we have for a mutually beneficial cause. The idea that we have to selfishly hold on to what is ours (“It’s mine…gotta get mine”) is a recipe for failure in business and quite frankly…in life.
So I got to thinking. There are countless ways in which an entrepreneur can benefit from connecting with competitors. Here are a few:
Connect to share knowledge and expertise
This is particularly beneficial to new businesses just starting in the market. Partnering with a competitor, especially one that may have more knowledge and experience in a particular aspect of the industry can benefit both parties tremendously. I’m not saying that you have to dishonestly track down your competitor’s trading secrets, but partnering in this way can expand the knowledge base of both businesses. Yes both businesses. One may think that this is a one-sided relationship where the business with less experience and knowledge is the only one that benefits, but there is so much to be gained from teaching and mentoring. No one knows everything and sometimes in the process of sharing knowledge, you not only solidify what you already know but you can also learn from the student as well.
When my husband and I just started As You Like It Events Co. Ltd., we were surrounding by other event managers who had so much more experience than us. Many of them supported us and gave us that landing from which we could spread. Men like Gleeson Job Managing Director of House of Siete Marketing, Michael Sealey Managing Director of Nuwave Automotive, Richard Gordon President of Kairi People, Selvyn Lewis President at The Barcom and Roger Roach CEO of Lazuri Apparel Limited served as mentors to us and we are so grateful for their support. Yes, at the time they ran businesses in the same industry, but the partnerships we fostered led to numerous successful events and a whole lotta growth!
Connect to enter a new market
Your business may be doing well in Trinidad and Tobago, but what about if you were to seek opportunities in Miami for example? Are you known over there? Are you trusted over there? Do you have any credibility over there? Should we simply say “Ah well, I’ll just stay in my little corner of the world where I’m comfortable”. Absolutely not. We need to start asking questions, we need to start making the right connections. There’s that word again…connections. Connecting with a company that is already making waves in the market you’re looking at makes more than good sense. It can validate your business to the market and propel your growth significantly. Remember always to pay it forward though. There is always a way in which you can help that company grow as well. Be confident in what you bring to the table and go after it!
Connect to improve the industry outlook as a whole
Did you know that company performance tends to mirror industry performance? If you think that your company exists in its own little bubble…think again. If you operate in an industry that is taking a hit, this can come back to bite you. In times like these, it is particularly important to put petty differences aside and connect. In the current economic environment that the global pandemic has created, businesses such as restaurants, bars, hotels and event co-ordination have suffered a hard blow. I know because we are one of them! We at As You Like It Events have had to connect with others in our industry because we believe that if one falls, we all fall! Let’s start having conversations about how we can help each other during this time; let’s also start planning for the future. A new economic dawn is coming and there will be new opportunities to take advantage of…together.
Connect for charitable causes
I have found that coming together for charitable causes makes connecting all the more easier. There are many businesses that are willing to support a cause and some may even be actively looking for one. Connect with a cause and invite your competitors to partner with you. They will appreciate you for it and best of all, you get to help someone!
Establish apprentice relationships
So let’s say you sell juice and you purchase your bottles from a long-standing supplier. What happens if your supplier suddenly decides to sell juice as well and become your direct competitor? The phenomenon is called “Value chain climbing” and it is becoming more and more prevalent. As a matter of fact, companies like Samsung and HTC began as suppliers before launching their own products. It’s a risky move for a supplier but it happens none the less. Many suppliers tend to increase their costs when they start competing with you directly. Could you afford to simply dump the supplier? Is it the right time to do that? Would you compromise and just pay the higher costs? How about establishing an apprentice relationship with your supplier. Assuming you’ve established a good long standing relationship thus far, you can approach them to offer them marketing know how and other skills that you have developed while in business, in exchange for reduced prices. Remember, they may know how to make the bottle, but can they sell the juice?
All in all, creating relationships with competitors can be beneficial to you, the competitor, your market and the industry as a whole. Yes, you should proceed with caution, but proceed anyway!
Stay tuned for more!
Ceronne Bayley LLB MBA is the Lead Corporate Governance Consultant of her own consulting firm, Ceronne Bayley’s Consulting Services. She is a Corporate Secretary by profession and has fifteen years’ experience working with and advising Boards of Directors of State Enterprises as well as profit and non-profit companies in the private sector.
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information contained herein are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this article without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation. Use of, and access to this article do not create any professional relationship between the reader and Ceronne Bayley’s Consulting Services.