Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Time for a Paradigm Shift: Let's View Them as Colleagues, Not Competitors

Time for a Paradigm Shift: Let's View Them as Colleagues, Not Competitors

Having written my first short story in third grade - something with a Halloween theme, I believe - I've been engaged with the written word for my entire life. It was my sixth grade teacher, Sr. Laurian, who later assured me I had an aptitude for language - and perhaps planted within my brain the idea that I would one day use it professionally.

Though my earliest writing forays were in fiction, the essays and research papers were the writing that seemed to come most easily to me. Make no mistake - I have always loved fiction. And even though my skill with it has improved over the years, I am to this day a much better fiction reader than I am a fiction writer.

And I'm a much better editor than I am a writer of any measure. Writing and editing are allied skills, to be sure - but with marked differences. Writers create. They depict. They capture essences and emotions and exquisite detail. Most, however - even the good ones - write too much. Which is where I come in. My strongest skill is reining in the profuse language, paring it down to eliminate unnecessary words so that the writing is more fluid, easier for the reader to comprehend.

It's a smallish club I belong to - but I am,without a doubt, in good company. There are lots of professional editors out there. There are even a fair number within my immediate locale. And like many people, I do, on occasion, feel that tension that comes when I face competition - whether for a job or at a networking event.

One thing I've learned through my years in business, though, is that life is easier when we view the others in our industry as colleagues, rather than competition.

I had a friend who was a financial planner. He was a member of the Greater Phoenix chapter of the Financial Planning Association, and attended their monthly meetings. I would ask how the meetings went, and invariably the answer was some version of "Fine" or "OK." Seems he, like most of the other Phoenix CFPs, attended these monthly events to meet his continuing education requirements. Beyond that, he didn't much see the point, because "we're all in the same industry. It's not like it's useful networking." Wow.

But how many of us feel that way, that regular meetings with others in our industry aren't much more than a waste of time? And what would shift for us if we began to see those meetings as the true opportunities they are? How would our businesses expand if we shifted our perspective to view our competition as colleagues?

"Why would we do such a thing?" you may be wondering. More reasons than you might imagine.
  • No matter how good you are, there are only so many hours in the day. Say all your marketing lines up and half a dozen big clients hit at once. Are you prepared to handle the workload? And if you're not, what will you do? Isn't outsourcing to the "competition" a better idea than losing a client because you couldn't handle all the work yourself?
  • Chances are, if you're really good at your work, you specialize. I work across a range of industries, but primarily with self-publishing writers/authors who produce how-to or self-improvement materials. While I'll take on a work of historical or contemporary fiction, I know next to nothing about sci-fi. And I wouldn't trust my skills to edit something highly technical in nature. So I farm those jobs out - either by referring the entire project to someone else, or hiring a contractor to do the work for me. Either way, it's an alleged "competitor" who's getting the business.
  • Some day, you'll get married, take a vacation, or have some other reason to be away from your business for a while. In order for your business to thrive, you should do this regularly! Some entrepreneurs or small business owners have the luxury of being able to close up shop while they're away. For others, however, this is simply unrealistic. Wouldn't it be great, though, to have a stable of reliable colleagues to whom you can pass the work if and when you cannot do it, for any reason?
  • Sometimes, personalities clash. Usually, you know it going in - this probably is not the client for you. Could be any number of reasons, but you have that gut feeling that perhaps you should pass on this contract. You'd go a long way toward salvaging the relationship, though, if you were honest up front, but also recommended a colleague who might be a better fit for the prospect.
  • Team efforts make big projects easier. In an earlier post, I recommended collaborating with colleagues or others in allied industries to host an event. Take the example of the Northwest Phoenix Wedding Professionals. This is a consortium of business owners, all of whom all cater to couples about to be or newly married. They put on several trade shows each year, and all who participate have seen great success. Whether it's a coupon book, a fundraising event, or a trade show - partnering with colleagues can be one smart decision for your business.
So the next time you find yourself wincing at the thought of running into or vying for business with a competitor, STOP. Take a deep breath. And reframe the situation. Chances are you can turn this meeting into an opportunity, finding a way to create a marvelous mutually beneficial partnership.

Have a story about a competitor who became a colleague? Ideas for ways to partner with those in your industry? Post them below in the comments section!

This is Day 28 in the 60-Day Content Challenge. See you tomorrow for the next post!

Sign up today for Laura's next workshop, Want to Charge More? Start Writing! Or e-mail your writing, marketing, or design questions to Laura.

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1 comment:

  1. Not too long ago I remember having a conversation with an account executive of a magazine that was trying to get us to be their "exclusive" financial advertiser- at a premuim pricing.She nearly fell out of her chair when I responded that our firm has zero competition! it may not be literally but we share your philosopies.