Over the previous few weeks in these blogs, I have focused on various aspects of the changes I have made in my life. I wanted to explain how my thought process works in regards to my business and personal life. I felt some of this was needed to help give a background on the way I conduct my decisions in this "produce life". This week I want to focus on a particular business approach.
Growing up as a child in this industry, I always remember getting to meet all of my dads' friends. What I really remember was interesting was that most of these friends happened to be his daily competitors.The times were different back then, and I think and believe that business owners back then were content with what they had. They were secure in their lives and focused on the things that are important in life. That last piece really hammers home the previous few week's blogs about gratitude, and focusing on what really matters. Somewhere between my childhood and today, this concept and the way of thinking in todays business world seems to have changed. Did society change? Did competition get too fierce? Or have we became too afraid to be friends with our enemies off the field? I learned quite a bit as a child seeing all the competitors have fun together. What really surprises me is that often, I am looked at different by others when they see my relationships with the competition is civil. I can think of quite a few reasons that I believe in being friends with foes, but it is really a few things that I think are the most important.
One of the reasons I created this website was as a soundboard to help me realize I wasn't crazy. I wanted to know that we all dealt with the same issues daily. It doesn't matter what industry we are in, the problems are the same. When you talk to your competition, you have so much in common, often more than you think, and most of it isn't business-related. Many times the people in an industry are pretty similar down to the core when you dissect all the aspects of their character. I have learned so much about my own business as well as other lessons about life just by talking to individuals that I battle on the playing field daily. I believe they, just like me, look forward to our chats.
When you find mistakes or things that didn’t seem to work very well for your competition, take note of it. Work to avoid making the same mistakes you see your competitors making. When you have friends in the same field, you ultimately can learn things that work for some and not others. Often times we can look for strategies amongst our "friends" of which they are putting in place. Maybe this can give us ideas on how you can make your own company even better. At the end of the day, shouldn't everyone be about an industry or a market segment rather than being selfish about themselves?
A little healthy competition challenges entrepreneurs to develop ongoing methods to evolve and grow the business. Keeping lines of communication open between you and your competitor can help establish benchmarks by which you can measure your success. You'll also see where you are falling behind or not. Remember, this is valuable information, not a measurement of how smart or capable you are; every situation has its variables and a multitude of factors that influence them.
Lastly, when you work with other good things can happen that can impact a community. When you have these direct relationships with your competitors, you can work collaboratively to gain press, host events, and raise general awareness about the industry or product within the community. In the produce industry, this can be very valuable with issues such as nutrition, homelessness, and food safety. There is always strength in numbers, and no one wants to stand alone on an island. Never should any company feel like an enemy stranded alone, unless they put themselves there. Although our competition and we can co-exist in the same competitive landscape, there are differences between everyone. Every company will have their niche they excel at that sets them apart. When you both recognize that fact, your relationship will move from a contentious one to one of mutual support. We should always feel like partners and friends.
Always remember that some of your competitors may refuse your invitation to connect. Don't take it personally, and it may take the time to open up. Some people may not understand your motive for the action. If you do catch resistance, be patient, and maybe they will come around. Often, in the beginning, it will take open-minded people who understand the benefits of a little friendly competition.