The most successful people I know in my industry (the staffing industry), and probably most industries, spend some time developing relationships with their competitors and others within the industry. I don’t believe for a minute that it should not be the number one focus … but it should be a high priority.
1. Very often the biggest challenges industries face come from outside … whether it is technology changing the landscape, other industries becoming competitors, changing client landscapes, innovative solutions or just the effects of regulatory change. There are plenty of common issues to talk about.
2. Without ever talking about the “secret sauce” of your company it is interesting to talk about the general challenges of running a company, with people who have similar issues.
3. There is a need for industries to talk about “Best Practices” in order to preserve/grow or influence the external perception of an industry. This can only be achieved by industry leaders adopting a common approach.
4. There will always be issues between competitors, whether it is perceived “raiding of staff” or poor business practices in a particular geography/line of business. It is much easier to be able to pick up the phone and have a frank discussion with someone you have a relationship with, than to call in the lawyers!
5. To be a leader within an industry takes a level of trust and/or respect that can only be achieved by getting to know others, and allowing them to get to know you.
6. When the time comes to hire key people into your organisation, it is much better to know people who are those trustworthy, ethical and capable leaders that you would choose to work with!
That is just a few top of mind reasons why you should invest in your relationships with competitors.
The number one rule is that the relationship needs to be an ethical one, one that preserves the integrity of each other’s organisation while working towards a better industry. It is not really that hard, and certainly nothing to shy away from.