Competitors – Friend or Foe ?
Competitors can simply be defined as
“one selling or buying goods or services in the same market as another”
… per Merriam Dictionary
or “those rotten SOB’s that undercut my pricing, run their business without any regards for proper business ethics, and generally derate our entire industry”
… per an upset business owner
Small Business And Competitors
How do you view your competitors? As small business owners we all have competitors. Sometimes they are just down the street or across the globe. I am in the business of helping small business owners buy and sell businesses. Very often when a small business owner desires to sell their business, their competitor may be the first logical party to approach. The relationship that a small business owner has with those competitors is potential buyers of their business will dictate the viability of effective dialogue. When running your business a competitor can be a valuable alliance.
With my previous business, we had fairly open relationships with many of our competitors, and found that at times working together could prove to be mutually beneficial. We had a production company and many of our supplies came from far away. Very often we would coordinate with nearby competitors on shipping arrangements to “share truckloads” to reduce both of our cost. We also would fall short of certain supplies that would potentially shut down our production lines. Maybe we would get a sudden large customer, or just mis-allocate. We would put a call into our local competitors, arrange to buy some supplies from them, and they would do the same with us.
We were competitors, but were business men first and recognized the value of mutually beneficial arrangements. Furthermore, In my previous business we incurred a significant disaster to our production facility which caused our business to shut down to rebuild. The relationships we had built throughout the years with competitors, had the owners of those competitors business on the phone with us offering assistance. And this assistance was invaluable in allowing us to transition through this difficult event. Some of their assistance resulted in additional short term business for them. Other assistance resulted in significant long term relationship building between our 2 companies. I would like to think I would have done the same for them.
Very often industry matters, panels, trade groups require the interaction of competitors to benefit the group and or industry. “A rising tide raises all ships”. Is true when you have competitors that can work together, you can benefit the entire industry.
But it would be naive to think that issues will not occur between competitors. You seek the same customers as competitors, and very often it is you or your competitor that gains that new customer, and you want it to be you-your competitor wants it to be him.
Building a relationship with competitors can be beneficial. It doesn’t mean that you need to go out for a beer once a week. But it does mean that you can pick up a phone and make a business request and know that your competitor can do the same with you. It is not always possible to have a mutually beneficial relationship with a competitor. But it should at least be considered and or explored.