by Marcia Yudkin
Business is war. At this very moment,
cut-throat competitors are trying to snatch away your best customers, recruit your
employees and steal your ideas. Be manipulative and
ruthless, because in the struggle for business survival,
nice guys never end up on top.
Is that your vision of the world? Some very successful
business people I know act otherwise.
Let's turn the view of business as a ferocious fight upside
down and consider what you might gain by regarding companies
in the same line of work as allies.
First, by sharing information voluntarily with one another,
you each learn faster and grow more healthily. A former
business magazine editor I know once called up editors of
other magazines in his niche to exchange ideas about what
they were doing that was working and what wasn't.
Suspicious at first, several took him up on the offer and
soon experienced the value of discussing problems and
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Hardly ever do two businesses share precisely the same
universe of probable customers. With the business
magazines, the tone, coverage of topics, frequency and point
of view differ enough that some customers prefer Magazine A
to Magazine B and vice versa while others choose both C and
D. The same goes for therapists, lawyers and accountants,
where expertise, approach and personality make one
professional appeal most to Client X and another to Client
Second, by joining forces where appropriate and acting
cordially toward one another you can increase the size of
your shared market. After all, isn't that the idea behind
trade associations and industry advertising, like the "Got
Milk?" campaign? I've watched several Internet marketing
companies profitably write for and advertise in each other's
publications and cover each other's conferences. Trying to
cut each other down wouldn't be as smart.
Third, you can help smooth out rough spots for each other
more reliably than by seeking aid from outsiders. Peter
Bowerman, a commercial writer in Atlanta and the author of
The Well-Fed Writer, organized a peer group to meet once a
month or so. "The upshot is that I now know the work of 6-7
writers," he says, "people to whom I'm very comfortable
referring to clients when I'm too busy, out of town, or if
the project is out of my scope of expertise."
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Such bridge-building works not only for independent
professionals like photographers, graphic designers and
consultants but even for, say, dry cleaners. When your
pipes burst, you'll appreciate being chummy with someone who
has the right equipment with capacity to spare.
Fourth, you'll have boosters already lined up if you decide
to shift gears. That business editor eventually decided to
go solo as a writer. Not in any pre-planned way but
conveniently enough, his roster of assignments filled up
right from the start because of the fellow editors he'd come
to know. Likewise, if you want to retire or sell your
business, you'll already be on cordial, not warring, terms
with potential buyers by following the "ally" philosophy.
Copyright 2002 Marcia Yudkin.
All rights reserved.
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