Creating competitive allies from former business competitors essentially is a hiring process. Thinking about the competitive process in those terms provides a fresh perspective about the impact competitive allies can make on your business growth.
Business competitors as allies? As the leader of your small business, solopreneurship or micro business, your focus is to remain competent and competitive. That in-the-current-box thinking turns everyone into a competitor. You are continuously operating on the business defensive.
That type of status quo mindset keeps your small business small and your micro business even smaller.
When small businesses and micro businesses think bigger they hire competitive allies.
Small businesses gain critical competitive mass by “hiring” other small businesses they considered “competitors.” When the process is one of hiring, you evaluate your former competitor more clinically and objectively, focusing on specific criteria, projects and competencies. However, if you consider this process a partnership, it’s more like getting married: risk and emotion enter the mix.
Which process do you prefer for moving your small business forward?
This type of competitive alliance model is particularly applicable to custom manufacturing and assembly companies. When these small businesses merge their collective complementary capabilities, staff and equipment, they are able to bid on larger contracts. These opportunities would not be opportunities otherwise. They are hurting themselves by thinking small.
The formula? It all starts within a facilitated round-table environment. It flourishes with the willingness of leadership to talk about common challenges and issues. It continues with the creation of a set of “hiring” criteria when bringing in a competitive ally.
The results? The group of competitive allies start to pursue side-projects to learn more about industry trends and the cost-benefit of merging capabilities to pursue larger complex contracts. Employees fine-tune their own abilities as part of their buy-in into the complex selling and project execution equation. As a result everyone learns to collaborate more productively within their own respective company and with the staff of their competitive allies.
Everyone becomes smarter in the process. That sounds like innovation replacing competition.
Hiring competitive allies translates into growth for solopreneurs and consultants.
Solopreneurs and consultants fall into a similar situation. Individually, each person is immensely skilled in specific areas. However, their businesses lack experienced critical human resource mass to allow them to target larger, complex contracts.
The solopreneurs who perceive business competitors as “competitors” restrict themselves from professional growth by continuing to think small. Instead, these business people continue to sell their individual services to large companies, expecting that larger company to broker the combinations of solopreneurs and consultants that make the most sense on a per project basis.
This type of mindset keeps the solopreneur a Lego-piece commodity in someone else’s business puzzle. The individual expert is never quite in control of any project; they are never sure when their next project will “happen.”
Alternatively consultants who take a risk by reaching out to competitive allies initially “kiss a lot of frogs” before finding their prince or princess business ally. However, if they are committed to growing their business, they hire a consultant’s consultant to facilitate the initial processes and develop the appropriate business model for their future alliances. They create a set of criteria and identify special circumstances for hiring a competitive ally to collaborate on larger projects.
The result? The single-person entity now has a huge group of cultivated professional resources and sounding-boards to bounce ideas off of. They speak more confidently when developing clients. They target appropriate projects allowing them to showcase their capabilities more wisely. They redefine who their true competitors are, while distancing themselves from competing against a commoditized crowd.
Define your circumstances. Establish your hiring criteria.
Under defined circumstances, business competitors can function as competitive allies. When you “hire” each other, both of your businesses identify more projects to put on your collective business radar screens. By collaborating, you offer each other greater opportunity to diversify your capabilities.
The longer term outcome of hiring business allies is on your core business. As your respective portfolios grow, you speak more confidently when working together to develop new business. Individually, you target projects more wisely rather than bidding on any and every RFQ or RFP that is floating out there. Ultimately, your own hiring processes benefit as you target individuals who are comfortable working collaboratively, productively and profitably.
Are you exhausted from continuously competing against the business universe? Under what circumstances will you consider hiring a competitive ally? What opportunities are you currently missing out on that would benefit from this workforce and business strategy?
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, professional development coach, analyst and content creator. Babette has one of the most distinctive voices in today’s workforce, professional development and customer success communities. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring and developing technical and non-technical employees focused on customer success. She catalyzes compelling strategies and processes for cross functional communication and collaboration. She is the author of Do YOU Mean Business? – her playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks to drive revenue through your organization.
Image author: Corina Rosu. Image source: Fotolia.com.