As a small business owner, what you need is scale. You need to touch as many prospects as you can in the shortest amount of time, and you need to do it in a productive way. Scale can be accomplished via partnerships. Who has the trusted relationships with your most coveted prospects? Often, it’s your competition. So turn your competitors into partners, and get them to sell your products or services on your behalf.
Sound dangerous? It’s happening around you all the time. During my tenure as an executive at the Miami Herald, we turned to our fiercest competitors and asked them to print and deliver our newspaper in their territory when it had become too expensive for us to do it anymore. Did they laugh in our faces? No! Not only did they agree, they asked us to do the same for them. How could we trust each other? In general, we were delivering our competitor’s product along with our own. We weren’t about to mess up our relationship with our own precious subscribers.
The companies that you view as your competition have a need to grow that’s equal to your own. Package your services in ways that will fill in the pieces they’re missing. For example, what do your most successful competitors do when they have too much work? They either work around the clock, contract it out, or both. Why not position your company as their overflow go-to partner? Handle their accounts professionally and exceed expectations, and not only will you get a regular flow of business from those competitors, but you’ll build an amazing portfolio of work for clients that would have been difficult to access on your own.
I’m an executive coach and consultant who gets paid to speak, and just today I invited some of my competitors to take a speaking opportunity I had to give up due to a scheduling conflict. This opportunity would have opened a lot of doors for me at one of the largest employers in my own hometown, and by offering it to my competitors, I conceivably may have shut those doors forever. But I don’t think so. My experience has shown me that my competitor will remember who opened the door to that opportunity, and I will get return referrals from a new source that probably wouldn’t have given me the time of day before.
I opened my first small business back in 1989, a technology consultancy and resale firm. About five years in—after I had developed a reputation for myself—one of my least favorite competitors called on me to solve a problem they couldn’t solve for one of their clients. My first reaction? “You’ve gotta be kidding!” My second reaction? “Sure!” I took very good care of that client, and one of my biggest competitors became a continual source of business.
It’s been said that a business plan that states, “We have no competition,” is a business plan written by a fool. It's true; all businesses are in competition with someone. But if you say you have no competition because you knowingly view your competitors as potential partners, then you’ve learned to tap into one of the hidden possibilities that surround us every day.
OPEN Cardmember Kim Marcille Romaner is chief amplifier of Possibilities Amplified, Inc., a company passionate about helping people, businesses, and communities discover new possibilities for achieving their desired results.