Creating Partnership From Competition

As women in business, we’re accustomed to seizing opportunities when they present themselves. One opportunity that is consistently under-utilized and undervalued is competitive synergy, working with your competition instead of against them. In today’s economy, if you want to succeed, you may have to put to rest that old “them or me” spirit and view your competitors not as enemies but as potential allies.

Think about it: five fingers alone don’t cause much damage in a fight but when you bring them together to form a fist, well, you can pack a pretty mean punch. Now imagine those fingers are five women on their own in the business arena and consider how much damage they could do if they came together.

That is the essence of competitive synergy: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By working together, you and your “competition” can both be more successful and gain that market edge that neither one of you seem to be able to reach on your own. By communicating with those around you, you can turn a potential negative into a positive and start working smarter, not harder.

Onward and Upward

It’s no secret that one of the driving forces behind striking out on your own in the business world is to be your own boss. You want to be in charge of your schedule and in control of your own success. A great benefit to partnering with other like-minded business women is that you can maintain your autonomy while drawing from each other’s strengths. You can work with each other instead of working for each other. And those are always the best partnerships – ones where both members are on equal footing.

Even though you are on the same level, you both have something unique to bring to the table. Start by reaching out to those in your “circle.” Identify those professionals, both women and men, who offer the same or related goods or services as you. For example, if you are a wedding planner, your circle consists of other wedding planners, as well as caterers, florists, musicians, bridal shop owners, party suppliers, hotel and restaurant managers, etc. Pay them a visit and introduce yourself, leave some business cards and take some of theirs. Ask them to hand yours out and offer to do the same.

Chances are they will be receptive to you because they recognize that by teaming up, they extend their reach into your resources and now have access to your customers and clients that they might not have had otherwise.

To the Victor Goes the Spoils…and so much more

One of the keys to a successful business endeavor is minimizing risk and maximizing returns. If you combine the time, energy, effort, expertise, and finances of others, think of how much more you can accomplish than on your resources alone. By joining forces with those in your circle, you not only share the glory when your efforts succeed, but you also share the losses, the upfront costs, and the responsibility.

For example, one way to engage your new alliance might be to offer your brides (in keeping with the wedding planner example above) a package deal. Go in with a caterer, a photographer, a bakery and an entertainment company and promote yourselves as a “one-stop shop” for brides. Each of you can market the deal separately, and divide the costs for a large radio or television spot, and you have now reached five distinct pools where you would have only hit one before.

Alternatively, you could co-host a party or co-sponsor a benefit with your new ally. Divide duties and costs between yourselves and each of you can invite your respective rolodexes. The end result is a great time and new connections for all, with each of you only bearing half of the brunt.

It’s a Win-Win for Everyone

Not only will you increase the bottom line for both of your businesses by what you save, but you will also increase your professional goodwill in your community for what you give. For example, if you are not so fixated on how to beat your competition, you can focus more on customer service. This includes the security to send your patrons down the street to your new partner when she can better meet their needs. Not only will your customers thank you for saving them time, but they will also appreciate your integrity and are more likely to return to you in the future and direct others your way. Moreover, your new business buddy will pay it forward when she can send her people your way. Everybody wins.

What are some of the ways you have teamed up with would-be competitors? How else do you see partnering up with others in your field as a good thing?

About the author: Erin Schwartz is the marketing and social media manager at 123Print is a leading provider of a high variety of quality items for small businesses like custom business cards, address labels, and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.

Photo credit: iStockphoto


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