Last week I received a text message from one of my clients who become suddenly anxious while attending a speaker’s conference. She’d intended to meet prospective clients, and to her surprise, there were about five direct competitors also in attendance. It concerned her greatly, but rather than fret over it I suggested she introduce herself. Why not go out on a limb and invite them to coffee or a drink? This was not the advice she’d expected.
On the very same day, I received a call from a fellow coach who also works with entrepreneurs. She called to inquire about my services but was not ready to engage as a client. Rather than write her off I gave her three valuable pieces of advice to help her grow her business coaching practice. Why would I support someone who may grow to become my competition someday? Because I see an endless supply of entrepreneurs who want to experience double or triple-digit growth and reduce their stress. We need more talented coaches.
1. Lends credibility to your industry.
Until only a few years ago many people likened coaching to therapy and considered the use of a coach as a weakness. Today, many entrepreneurs view their coaching relationship as a badge of honor. Smart, successful people don’t do it alone, they build support networks and a great coach is an integral piece of it. It is through collaboration, joint ventures, and by joining our voices that the coaching industry has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Today, savvy individuals know that the coaching industry as a whole is a credible one, and the stigma hardly exists any longer.
2. Generates resources.
Dina Barazza is Board Chair for the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities, a not-for-profit employment service for people with disabilities in the province of Ontario. “Leading a not -for-profit means working with limited paid resources,” says Barazza. “Therefore, networking is a key trait for our board along with lots of best-practice sharing with our competitors.” The organizations share cost savings, benefit from one another’s strengths, and find community partners to help with other funding. In one instance Barazza was introduced to a small clothing business that donated 200 suits for the organization’s clients. The coalition is also in discussions with the store’s general manager to explore the possibility of the retailer hiring some of their clients.
3. Pushes you to become the best you can be.
A little healthy competition challenges entrepreneurs to develop ongoing methods to evolve and grow the business. Keeping lines of communication open between you and your competitor can help establish benchmarks by which you can measure your success. You’ll also see where you are falling behind, or not. Remember, this is simply valuable information, not a measurement of how smart or capable you are; every situation has its variables and a multitude of factors that influence them.
4. Brings recognition to your industry.
Fifteen years ago, I owned a very busy coffeehouse. Starbucks was a rising star, but not the giant it is now. People would ask me if I hated the competition, but I did not. I felt thankful that Starbucks was reintroducing the coffeehouse culture to America. While it wasn’t likely I would have coffee chats with Howard Schultz, I did become friendly with the local coffeehouse managers and owners. We worked collaboratively to gain press, host events, and raise general awareness within the community. Never did any of us feel like the enemy, we felt like partners and friends. Our joined efforts made a significant difference in our businesses as well as the community.
5. May lead to acquisition.
I once had a client who reached out to a competitor for mentorship purposes. The older woman was happy to take my client under her wing and agreed to the occasional conversation. After two years of building what became a mutually beneficial relationship, the mentor revealed her thoughts of retirement. One of the fastest paths to growth is through acquisition, and that’s exactly what my client did.
You may end up growing through acquisition someday. Open the doors, you never know what’s on the other side.
6. Strengthens your referral network.
I am friendly with a number of coaches and find these relationships beneficial and enjoyable on many levels. There are times when I am unable or unwilling to take on a particular client, so I refer them to a fellow coach. Naturally, I am the recipient of such referrals as well.
Although you and your rival company exist in the same world, there are differences between you. When you both recognize that fact your relationship will move from a contentious one to one of mutual support.
7. Invites abundance.
Christie Ruffino, Founder and President of the Dynamic Professional Women’s Network (DPWN) collaborates often with similar organizations. She doesn’t see them as competition but as a resource. In her experience, an alliance with similar organizations has created many opportunities for her, as well as her members. “When we have an abundant mindset, rather than one of scarcity, and we focus on supporting ‘them,’ we open ourselves up to receive so much more in return,” says Ruffino.
Some of your competitors may refuse your invitation to connect. Don’t take it personally. Move on to someone who is more broad-minded and understands the benefits of a little friendly competition.