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Working with your competitors

The thoughts of Richard Osborne on many subjects over the years.

Working with your competitors

Earlier this week my salesman for E-filing Limited was calling through a number of company formation agents doing his job, selling the services of E-filing. He was doing a pretty good job too.

He did hit a problem with one company, a problem which I had anticipated but I would never have guessed it would happen with this company in question. To understand why I’ll give you a bit of history.

When I started Quick Formations in 2002 the Pay-Per-Click market was pretty new in the UK, and at the start there was only myself and one other company formation agent bidding for key positions on the likes of Yahoo!, MSN, etc for our industry’s main search terms. It reached a point where we were trying to outbid each other and the end result was that we were paying way over the odds per click on our main search terms costing us both a fortune. It was a rediculous situation and needed to be sorted, so I gave the other company owner a call. We agreed to alternate weekly who would hold 1st place and the other would sit in second place. We had a gentlemans agreement between competitors and it worked very well… until the competition in the industry increased and then it just didn’t work because there was too many people. Whilst it was working though it saved us both a small fortune, a simple example of competitors working together.

So this company owner having experienced us working together, I was most surprised when he said he wouldn’t deal with E-filing because we are the “competition”. As a side note, the two companies are actually run and handled independantly at arms length .. just clarifying that point for the readers :-).

As a business owner I spent a lot of time talking with my competitors. We share knowledge about our industry with each other, industry gossip, and market trends. Some of them I have become friends with and often enjoy a round of golf or good long ol’ chat over the phone or lunch with. I have learnt a lot from their strengths and they have learnt a lot from my strengths. The end result is that each of our businesses have become stronger and more profitable.

That is not that you should run off and become all buddy with all your competitors and give away all your trade secrets, because I have also been bitten quite badly by someone who after a year of chatting on the phone at least weekly double crossed me quite badly. So you must tread carefully when getting into contact with competitors and building these relationships, because some of them will be just out for the take, but there are others who are genuine professional business people. They are the intelligent ones who share a common goal where everyone wins, and these are the ones you need to seek out and work with. Share and share alike, you help them and they will help you. It’s all about give and take.

This is where E-filing Ltd works so well in that when I speak to my customers of E-filing I share knowledge I have gained from Quick Formations with competitors of Quick Formations, we all bounce ideas off of each other. The results speak for themselves, QFL wouldn’t be doing as well as it is today if I thought I knew everything and did everything based on my own opinion alone. It is good to bounce ideas off someone not only in the same situation as you, going through the same experiences as you, but in the same industry as you.

My advice for today, if you want to move your business forward at a significant rate work with your competition. By doing this both businesses will benefit, and you need to be willing to help the competitor(s) you work with. If you are not willing to do this then don’t bother even considering it.