How many of your competitors do you also consider friends? That probably seems like a very strange question. Why would you be friends with people who are actively trying to take money out of your pocket with their own products or services? The idea just seems counter-intuitive.
However, there are many reasons why you should actively work towards formalizing a community around your industry. And yes, that means including your bitter rivals, whether they are across town or across the nation. Like it or not, you need each other. What am I talking about?
Sharing is Caring
Let’s face it: unless you just invented a totally new product or service, you have a ton of competition. The small business world is cutthroat, since everybody and their brother is hopping into the game to make some money. The Internet really is the great equalizer, and tons of new businesses open every day.
As a result, whole industries are under siege. It’s not just your business – undoubtedly your competitors are feeling the pinch as well. If this is the case, why wouldn’t you band together? The important thing to remember is that everyone in the group has value, and every shop has its own niche to fill. Even if your shops seem identical, they’re bound to have differences. With this in mind, there’s no reason you can’t share.
Share what, exactly? Resources, for one, and any tricks or best business practices everyone has found to work in their own niche. Even leads can be shared – perhaps there was a customer who didn’t like one thing about your business so they didn’t sign up. One of your new colleagues could fit the bill quite nicely.
Don’t Be Alone
While running your own business can be a lot of fun, it can also be incredibly lonely. Sometimes you might feel like you don’t have a friend in the world and that nobody could possibly understand what you go through every single day
Well, that’s not true! Your new colleagues understand perfectly what you’ve been going through and have felt that same desire to just unwind and let loose once in a while.
In any other job you have the opportunity to go to the bar or hold a poker game and complain about coworkers, customers, your boss, etc. You don’t really get that as a small business owner. When you start formalizing your community, you can find ways to unwind with people who understand your business and your stressors.
Plus – it’s fun! Instead of faceless enemies you now have a roomful of friends who can help push you and your business to the next level. It’s still competition, but friendly competition where everyone wants the same thing: to see the industry grow and all parties to be successful in an often-ruthless world.
So instead of organizing yet another business meeting or a networking event, get everyone together for an evening of fun. Organize a bowling league or poker tournament. If you find everyone has common interests, like reading, get everyone together for a book club. Soon you’ll find your former enemies are your closest friends and everyone is spurring each other on to success.
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