Coopetition can be profitable

One of the things you may want to consider to help get through tough times or any times is co-operating with others in your market niche more than you compete with them.  Sometimes, contrary to what we may think, if we join forces with people who provide similar services to our own, we can increase market reach and broaden service offerings to everyone’s benefit.  And that can be better than trying to go it alone.

Common sense rules

Now, I’m not suggesting that you get in bed with someone who keeps knives under the pillow, nor that you share your client lists and trade secrets.  Obviously, common sense has to rule.  But there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that, properly executed, particularly in times like these, co-operation can be as healthy – or even healthier – to a business than competition.  This is a time-honoured practice in many large corporations, where it’s referred to as co-opetition, and it’s a concept I like very much.

How this can work

Let me give you an example of how this can work.  I’ve known Helen and Keith, a marketing duo, for about six years now and while we’ve talked about working together in the past we’ve never actually pursued the idea.  That is, until we had a very propitious conversation last November.  That’s when I suggested that if they ever had clients who required presentation or media training I’d be happy to help them out.  In return, if I had clients whose needs exceeded my resources, I’d contact them. Keith smiled.  “As a matter of fact, I have a client who could use some media training.  We don’t really get into that, so I’ll have him contact you.”

Everyone’s a winner

A few days later I was hired for a half-day media training session and that session has led to more training and writing assignments.  And I expect my work with this client to continue for some time.  I’m happy, the client’s happy and Keith and Helen are happy because it reflects well on them.  Everyone’s a winner and Keith, Helen and I are keeping our eyes open for other areas where we can increase value to clients by working together.  It makes sense – and it’s profitable.

A few ground rules

I should point out here that we established a few ground rules before we began.  First, we agreed on a finder’s fee that ensures that whoever brings in the business is adequately rewarded.  Then we agreed we would continue to operate as independent consultants on this and future projects unless it made more sense for one of us to report to the other.  We also agreed not to encroach on service offerings that were already being provided by the other party.  I think we have a pretty good understanding of who does what and under what circumstances.  And of course, we’re both open to discussing modifications to suit new situations that may present themselves.

Don’t struggle

I know partnering, particularly with competitors, can be fraught with pitfalls.  Been there; done that.  But let’s face it, we all have areas where we excel and others where we have to struggle to meet client needs.  And one thing I’ve learned over the years is don’t struggle if you don’t have to.  It consumes valuable time and energy – and can cost you a client.

Open yourself to possibilities

It makes more sense to contact someone who does similar work to what you do and share the contract with that person rather than trying to do it all yourself. And it makes even more sense to align yourself in advance with several of your colleagues to invite them to join you in some healthy co-opetition on an ongoing basis.  You don’t have to give up your independence.  You don’t have to invest any cash.  You don’t have to share any secrets.  You just need to open yourself to some possibilities.

It makes sense

It’s not a cure-all but it makes sense to me, particularly in tough times, to look for alliances that promote both parties.  It’s been profitable for me and I recommend that you consider it as well.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Leave a Reply