Collaboration Within Industries

To some it seems to be an arbitrary activity. To put aside competitive demeanors, especially the hasty eye glares, cold shoulders, and high school mean girls friendliness. That’s a semi-joke, but seriously, being in the same town and being somewhat competitors is a bit of a different dynamic.
Do you make the introduction?  Do you shake a competitor’s hand with a smile and hope for a civil interaction?  Do you snarl and let them know you’re the big dog?

I’d say shake their hand, show them respect, show them some of your confidence and personality, and then EVEN ask about the potential for a sit down to discuss business.
-What is the story of you and your business?
-In what ways are we similar?  Different?
-What do you see for the future of our industry?
-But ALSO, Is there any opportunity we could collaborate and mutually benefit one another?

Yeah scary stuff huh? I get it, you are a business owner, your business is your everything, your baby; and a little chance of threat could put you in protection mode. But what if you have an opportunity to explore a collab and maybe, just maybe, you can unite in some aspects? Would you explore it and initiate a discussion if it has potential?
Something to think about; but if you are a business owner or business manager you know all avenues and all opportunities, strengths, weaknesses, or threats have to be analyzed/addressed in some way.

What I’ve discovered with competing businesses, atleast in the Sioux Falls, SD environment, is many markets and industries don’t even have baseline communication. Some never even introduce themselves to one another. Very weird in a small city. Similar to the neighbor in the cul-de-sac who never comes over to say hello, just peers out the window “over-watching others”.

Yes it may be somewhat of an awkward first introduction. Yes there will need to be some feeling out. But put the first foot forward is my recommendation. No, don’t unveil the farm; but crack the door a bit. Show some intent and let it be known you’d be open to some communication and sharing stories.

I’ll let you know there is power and solid possibilities in collaboration. I saw it first hand with The Bakery coworking space. With the Zeal Center we at first didn’t know how to approach each other, and some initial communication wasn’t constructive. But then we aligned in ways, and now have constructive support in many aspects. We’re both benefitting from aligning in efforts and activities to add value to each other and show public support for one another.

I was just apart of an awesome collaboration. While I’m writing this an event called SoDak Coffee Roaster Expo occurred 2 days prior. The Expo was a combination of 8 local small businesses, under one roof, for one afternoon, agreeing to team up. They each roast their own small batch coffee and compete rather directly. But they formed together to celebrate their small businesses, their industry, and their craft together.  It was an awesome occasion too!  24+ varieties of unique coffee, all free to sample, donuts, chocolate covered espresso beans, coffee infused cheeses, and 500 awesome Sioux Falls community members all having a spectacular time! The room was packed and the energy was electric. So many happy faces and engaged experiences. It was an immensely rewarding setting to interact with potential customers and capture them as loyal dedicated fans and followers.

The roaster expo was a prime example of collaboration between competitors within the same industry. They agreed to conjoin together and partially partner for one day, to build their niche of a newer industry up together.  They united to not compete against each other, but to compete against nationwide brands and low cost (probably lower quality) options. Insert David v. Goliath analogy.  They said we’re here, we’re the local home grown small businesses of Sioux Falls and we can deliver. Some may not define it as a “movement”, but it is!

Moral of the story and summary of this blog. Align where you can align. Partner where you can partner. Team up if at all possible. And brainstorm creative ways to do so.  Yes, use due diligence and set guidelines to keep all involved in check. No, sadly not a majority of businesses will be able to pull this off.
But if you have the chance for collaboration, try it, see what can happen. Oh and if you are in Sioux Falls and you are unsure how to approach it or don’t see it happening, reach out to The Bakery; which can be a resourceful neutral bridge that can help with the initial introductions and that connecting arm.

I’d love to hear more stories of Collaboration, if you have those please comment/post them or email me. thad@thebakerysf.com
Others I know of:

  • Hotels sacrificing together to fund CVB
  • Farmers helping other farmers out in need
  • Food Truck Fridays

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Showing 7 comments
  • Pete
    Reply

    Have had an overall good experience with collaboration and making relationships wirh competitors, but have been (lightly) burned a couple times too

    • Thadeus Giedd
      Reply

      It can happen. Very important to keep your self protected. Create those guidelines and checks and balances with each other.
      And still let it be known we are competitors, but we can put aside that for this movement or this aspect.

      Thanks Pete,

  • Will
    Reply

    Great post Thad. It is very easy to get sucked into the competitive resentment trap, both sides thinking that the other is against them.

    There is a reason why there is a McDonalds across the street from the Burger King and why most cities have “auto-row” where the bulk of the car dealerships are located — competition encourages growth and is mutually beneficial.

    Reach out to your local “competitor” today.

    • Thadeus Giedd
      Reply

      Good examples Will. Others that come to mind from your post: Las Vegas, all the casinos are competing but formed together somewhere down the road to become a mega attraction to the whole nation. Smaller scale but similar, Deadwood. Wisconsin Dells. Orland Tourism & Theme Parks.

  • Josh Muckenhirn
    Reply

    This is all fantastic. Every bit of it true. Sadly, not approaching our competitors is fostered by our competitive market, which don’t get me wrong is conducive and beneficial for society by constantly forcing innovation and improvement, but there needs to be more inter-industry cross collaboration. If your business is approached with an opportunity that simply doesn’t align with your position at the moment, but you know of a “competitor” who could take it on, pass it along! Don’t let an idea die simply because you are worried it will push the business next door past yours. In the end, it will only make (enter your city of residence here) that much better by keeping it in the community!

    • Thadeus Giedd
      Reply

      You Bet Josh. And YES competition is a huge driving factor. The whole world watched in 1969 as Russia, China, & USA raced to be first to the moon. But holy shit that was actually a collaboration in itself. Several nations agreed to toss their name in the hat and agree to the competition. #JFK

  • Bablofil
    Reply

    Thanks, great article.

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