Is it a good practice to be friends with your competitors, and share knowledge and practices like you would with a good friend? I give it an emphatic (and qualified) yes.
I’m not friends with all of our competitors. That would be impossible as we have a lot of them – there are thousands of agents and brokers across the country. And some in that group, well, I don’t want to be friends with them. And they don’t want to be friends with me. That’s okay.
But, when I look at my personal friendly competitors, here’s what I find in common and what makes those relationships valuable:
- Benefits Both of Us – Every relationship I have with a friendly competitor has made us both better, not just one of us. Either because we’ve implemented recommendations the other has given us, or we’ve been pulled to rethink our own approach.
- Benefits the Industry – The topics we cover also tend toward issues that make our industry stronger. Our discussions lead us to support improvements from our shared software vendors, find ways to attract talent to our industry and navigate or influence legislative issues.
- Trust – We trust each other to be honest and open about detailed business practices and challenges we’re facing.
- Likability – Frankly, this is the most important. I reserve the friendly competitor time for those who I like to be around, those who engage with enthusiasm and those in which we have a working comradery.
Importantly, here’s what I don’t worry about in these friendly competitor relationships:
- Competitive Overlap – I realistically can’t find a broker who we would never compete with; our reach is simply too broad in both industry and geographic segments. I don’t worry about this too much as we don’t share clients or similar specific information that would be detrimental to our businesses or those we serve.
- Losing our Competitive Edge – Our businesses are complex enough that sharing best practices and making us both more efficient and effective isn't going to hurt either of us.
Arguably, we may help to make a competitor stronger in the process of sharing, and that same competitor could take a client away from us at some point. The direct correlation between the two would be a big reach, and the benefits of the relationship outweigh the risk.
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