As a management accountant and solo flyer, I am fortunate to keep in close contact with my ‘competitors’ both locally and nationally. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to offer and maintain the service I do.
When weighing up cooperation versus competition, I treat my competitors as my peers. They are a technical resource, provide support during busy times and back-up for when I go on holiday.
My role typically involves a lot of problem-solving. Using my competition as a sounding board for clients issues or case studies can save a massive amount of time.
Having a good relationship with them means I’m never out of touch. For example, I just received a manual in the mail from a competitor who went to a conference and picked up some extra manuals and thought I would like some. Yes thanks …they came in very useful.
I try to offer similar assistance when they need it. The call I took at 7:30am this morning was from another competitor who needed help installing a new upgrade at a client’s site.
I just sent a text to Competitor X: do you know your email is bouncing? And I forwarded an e-newsletter to Competitor Y that I thought would be of interest to her.
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I will also send business their way when appropriate. For example, I may suggest a client deals with my competitor who has more experience in certain areas, or perhaps comes from an industry I would rather not deal with.
I keep abreast of competition in my area, and drop an email to anyone new.
Naturally, there are some competitors that I do not share with. If I feel uncomfortable with their modus operandi, or the relationship is weighted in one direction, I will keep my distance.
However if I visit a client’s site and learn they have previously dealt with my competition, someone whose work I have confidence in, and the client starts rattling off a list of complaints about that consultant, alarm bells ring. Experience has taught me that a client who complains may have unrealistic expectations, may not be receptive to receive and act on specialist advice, or may simply be a whinger.
In July 06 the CEO of Pepsi called the CEO of Coke to inform him that someone was trying to sell them the secret Coke formula. These fierce global rivals have a healthy respect for one another.
Good reliable competition is an invaluable resource. What are your thoughts on cooperation versus competition? Do you see competition as friend or foe?