4 reasons why you should be friends with your competitors.

rooster fight

Nic and I took a bunch of good resolutions for 2014. One of them was to take serious action regarding networking opportunities. We already attend regular local meetups, but we are exploring the possibility of joining one or two ‘business clubs’.

So yesterday I attended one of these networking events for the first time, as a guest. It allows you to see if the club is right for you before you are asked to pay for the membership.

A few days before the event, I received a call from the organiser, warning me that a close competitor had already joined that particular group, and therefore it would probably be better for me to join another one, if I decided to join at all. But I was still welcome to attend the event I had registered for and see for myself.

I was warned.

So I turned up to the event, not exactly knowing what to expect. And I really enjoyed it. The format was interesting, the members were all very welcoming and the talks inspiring.

And then I met my competition. Which, it turns out, is not really competition. Yes they also are a web agency. But we are in two very different markets. Still, I could feel that this person (who also happened to be the co-organiser of the event), did not really want me there, fearing that other members might not understand our differences.

I was shocked.

So here are 4 reasons why you should embrace your competition, instead of fighting it:

  1. Competition is healthy – it makes you try harder, be more innovative and develop your business.
  2. Find your niche – if your market is too crowded, then find out what you are really good at, and make it your speciality.
    There are hundreds of web agencies, but we decided to specialise in building complex back-end applications. We don’t do brochure websites, we don’t do front-end or design, we don’t do WordPress, we only work with Ruby on Rails. But we do it really well and so far our decision to go into that niche market has paid off.
  3. Learn lessons and share experience – we all have something to learn. Analyse what your competitors do and why they do it.
    We are constantly trying to improve our internal processes, from project planning to client communication and workload management. We regularly talk to other agencies, our “competitors”, to exchange ideas and share experience. And we have learnt a lot from them.
  4. Your competitors should be your friends, not your enemies – animosity, in any industry, is not only unproductive, it is also likely to be disapproved of by any prospective client. Be nice, that’s the rule.

So be friends instead of fighting and trying to exclude each other, it will be good for you, for your business and for the whole industry. And if you do fight, play by the rules. Who knows, you might even end up doing some business together!

Photo credit: Rene Bastiaanssen