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Turning Competition into Collaboration

Being a small business owner is like riding a seesaw — thrilling highs followed by stomach flipping lows, all while trying to maintain balance. You’re spinning most of the plates,  experiencing the exhilaration of independence alongside the weight of isolation that comes with being the boss. But what if the solution to some of these challenges lies in the very people you see as competition?

I joined a group of business owners back in January 2023. As part of Opendoorz we founded a group based in Cheltenham.  Part of the benefit of belonging to Opendoorz was that I could also meet with members from other groups…so suddenly my connections expanded from Cheltenham to over 140 fellow businesses – businesses that I already knew were culturally aligned and understood how to support fellow members. So why did I prioritise meeting those in the same field as my business…let me tell you what my questions were for them…

  1. How they made it work in their group – how did they establish and differentiate themselves in our profession?
  2. Who had become their best referrers – were there particular industries/sectors that had hit the mark? Could these be potential areas to seek members for our Cheltenham group?
  3. What had gone wrong – was there anything they had tried that didn’t work out or they would have done differently? What could I learn from them?

Shortly after one of these meetings, I joined forces with fellow member David Haimes.  His team were just about to go live wit a new coaching offering call Mio and after a few meetings where we shared our coaching stories, professional backstories and most importantly values and ethics – he was keen that I became a member of his coaching panel.  Mio’s approach combined the theory of coaching with the practicality of real lived experiences – which matched my business values perfectly.  What started as a networking insight quickly became a business opportunity for us both.

Here are my tips for collaborating with those in your network, specifically in your field:

Be Open and Approachable: Show genuine interest in your peers’ work and look for ways to contribute to their success – ask questions and be curious. Reciprocation in business valued and valuable not to mention the benefit of collective wisdom to help solve problems you might be facing.

Communicate Clearly: Effective communication is key. Be clear about your goals, strengths, and what you bring to the table. Be super clear on any niches you have, your ideal (and far from ideal!) client.  Creating boundaries of where and how you operate can only support future referral opportunities.

Seek Mutual Benefits: Focus on creating win-win scenarios where all parties benefit. This encourages the generation of diverse ideas,  increased creativity. Leverage your combined strengths, differences and ultimately your uniqueness.

Be Generous with Your Knowledge: Share your expertise and connections freely. This generosity often leads to reciprocal support. This will also help you stay up to date, support one another through industry changes/trends.

Stay Engaged: Relationships take time and are based on trust – invest your time and energy. Staying engaged also keeps you top of mind for potential collaboration opportunities as you never know where a conversation can lead.

We often see those in the same field or industry as rivals rather than potential allies – taking our share of the pie. By shifting our perspective from competition to collaboration we can unlock numerous benefits for our businesses and for ourselves personally – not to mention find comfort in knowing it doesn’t feel so lonely being the boss when you have a professional network behind you!

So, the next time you are connecting with fellow businesses, approach it with a collaborative mindset—you might just find your big opportunity in an unexpected alliance.


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