Collaboration Versus Competition

As an entrepreneur in the competitive world of businesses marketing services, I often feel at a disadvantage.

I’m not a competitive person. I was never into sports as a kid, although I was active and spent most of my time climbing trees and swimming. When I was forced to play a sport for my physical education credit in high school, I chose tennis - arguably the most noncontact, least team-oriented sport possible. For whatever reason, my mindset has always been to focus on personal goals, and comparing my “wins” and “fails” against others like me never made any sense.

When I started my business three years ago, I assumed this mentality was going to be a weakness. I knew I wasn’t going to be out networking every day, selling my service and tracking down new clients. I knew I wasn’t going to outshine the competition on the front end. But what I did know was that I did incredibly good, thorough and timely work. Was it enough to just be good at what I did? It turns out, yes - with a little help from my friends.

I’ve seen a quote around the internet that has really stuck with me: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition or positioning yourself to highlight your strengths (I do this on behalf of my clients every single day), constantly comparing yourself or your business to others around you will only steal your joy - not grow your business.

Instead, what I am seeing a lot of and am really excited about is collaboration taking the place of competition. When I’m not working out of my office in Chesapeake, I’m at my co-working space in Richmond, The Woodlot. In that space are six different businesses - each of our services have at least a tiny bit of crossover. But rather than compete against each other for work, we have all embraced an environment of collaboration. We often share clients and projects - either referring clients to others in the space or sub-contracting each other on larger projects. We have all learned that letting each business take on a part of a project that they are best at, have expertise in or can provide the largest impact for is really the best outcome for everyone. You’ve heard the saying, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”? That office space is a gander, and each goose is sharing the wins.

Recently my business, The Content Chop Shop, collaborated with another tenant in The Woodlot space, Campfire & Co. to offer small business workshops. Each workshop focused on a different area we know entrepreneurs struggle with: branding, marketing and public relations, writing and social media. When the writing session came around last month, despite my company being the in-house “writing expert” - we asked another one of our tenants, Stephanie Ganz of The Apple Cart, to come in and be our guest speaker. We all really admire her writing and the blog she produces for her business, so I took a step back and let her take the reigns for a good portion of the workshop. The result wasn’t that I lost business to her or was shown up by her knowledge and expertise, the results was that I learned a lot from her, and so did the rest of the participants. Allowing Stephanie to come in and speak to our group made the entire workshop a better experience for everyone.

Stephanie Ganz of The Apple Cart speaking to participants of a recent “Fireside Session”- photo courtesy of Betty Clicker Photography

The end result of collaboration over competition is twofold: the first is what I’ve already  mentioned - you can use others’ expertise and awesomeness to you and your client’s advantage. But secondly, you create good will between yourself and other small businesses. I know that inviting Stephanie to speak to the workshop I was leading means that in the future she is more likely to refer a client who needs extensive writing work to me. I know this is true because it has already happened. Collaboration, for me, has taken the place of constantly competing with others for business. Instead of comparing myself to other businesses or trying to point out why I’m better than others, I’m able to allow the relationships I create to bring in positive referrals and business while creating meaningful and useful connections - and that’s a real win-win.