Make friends, not enemies
Whether you’re an entrepreneur just getting your foot in the door or a seasoned small business tycoon with several years of experience under your belt, there’s one thing that unites everyone under these circumstances: competition. Although you might have the greatest idea for a new startup since the Olsen twins launched Elizabeth and James, chances are, someone down the street is planning to go live with a product that is only slightly different from your own. Two blocks away, another business just opened that makes your idea look outdated.
How you choose to rise above this busniess truth, however, is what will separate you from your competitors. If you want to grow your small business, the first thing you’ll have to learn is how to tactfully increase your branding potential by softening your adversarial approach to interacting with those companies in your neighborood. When you stop thinking of them as your competition and begin recognizing them for their collaborative potential, you’ll start to see them in a whole new light.
Know who the true enemy is
If business is a battlefield, then it’s important for you to know who – or what – the real antagonist is. If you’re certain it’s the business that opened less than a block away from yours, ask yourself what your long term goals are. Engineering a ploy to close them down before they can take too much of your client base away could cost you more in time and resources than if you participated in what Fox Business calls the "neighbor principle." With this idea driving your business activity, rather than seeing similar companies to yours as the enemy, you instead consider the collaborative potential of a united front.
How would this work?
It’s simple. Instead of filling up with an all-consuming panic from seeing the line out their door during their opening launch, try to consider how what they’re selling could benefit you. For instance, if you both sell office supplies, there’s a good chance some of their wholesale wares are the same as your own, and it might be possible to coordinate shipments. Bigger orders can sometimes translate into discounted costs, too, which would be beneficial for all parties involved.
It extends beyond similarities
As a small business owner, you shouldn’t limit the neighbor principle to just businesses that, in another time and place, could be considered your competitors. After you’ve secured your business financing and are beginning to build up a local following, check around to see if any nearby businesses might also be in need of your services. If you’re a Web development company, for instance, maybe nearby companies could use an upgrade or redesign of their website in exchange for your logo placed somewhere on their home page. You end up with more exposure from the visitors to their website and, depending on how well the trade works, you might have secured a valuable long-term partnership.
Knowing when another business is a competitor, and nothing more, is important, but as a new small business, it’s more essential to your longevity to make friends, not enemies. Nevertheless, keep a level eye on the playing field. While it’s certainly beneficial for you to consider collaboration before competition, there’s no harm in developing a strategy to set yourself apart in the business world once you’ve cleared a few quarterly goals first. When you’re ready to expand, the ability to know when partnerships should end will help get you where you need to be.