Competition vs. Cooperation? How do you view your Business?

This is a blog post that I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now.  I’ve been running my own business for over 2 years now, before that I worked for a cash-strapped Internet Start-up and before that I was at P&G.

One of the things that I’ve learned as a business owner is that there are two ways to view other businesses in your area: as competition or potential partners.

The Problem with the Competition Mindset

The problem with the competition mindset is that it limits opportunities and limits who you can work with.

Thinking of everyone you meet as competition leads to a secretive and negative mindset.  They can take your business or steal your ideas.  They should be avoided.  They probably aren’t as good/cheap/knowledgeable as you are.

First, thinking of people this way can be exhausting.  It also breeds a negative mindset as you try to put them down to reaffirm that you are better than them.

In reality our businesses are all just different, with a different set of strengths, weaknesses and focus areas.

By viewing other people as a threat you can miss out on huge opportunities.  The opportunity to collaborate on projects, learn from them and potentially work with them.

I have received some of my best business opportunities from referrals that came through people who I could have viewed as my “competition”.  I have also sent business their way when I wasn’t the right fit.

Working with Competitors Makes Everyone Better

Many years ago I read a book (mostly a picture book) called “The Nibble Theory”.  In the book, people were circles.  Some circles nibbled on other circles, making them smaller.  This didn’t make the nibbling circle any bigger.

Other circles shared with smaller circles and made them bigger.  The sharing circle didn’t get any smaller for sharing, but the smaller circle was able to grow.

The reality is that by working with other business owners we can create bigger and better opportunities than on our own.  Sure, we all have some direct and obvious real competitors that we can’t collaborate with, but in most cases the people we spend our time avoiding are similar to us, but different enough that there can be opportunities.

As a confident business owner you should know that you have something unique and of value to offer.  If everyone else frightens you, maybe the problem is your business.

When I meet new social media trainers or consultants in my area I usually first look at how we can work together.  My specific areas of focus and strengths tend to be different from theirs.  They may be a better fit for certain business opportunities.

There are bigger companies that are better resourced than I am and there are also smaller companies that will work on projects that are smaller than what I want to work on.

There is Lots of Business Out There

The reality is that there is lots of business out there.

I do a lot of training these days, and through the social media certification program that I teach I train a lot of social media marketing consultants and agencies.

I am often asked if I am concerned about training my competition, and hey, we all need to make a living.  The reality is that there is lots of business out there, and if I can help raise the education level of the practitioners in our category the entire industry will benefit.

By increasing the number of success stories around social media, our entire industry will benefit.  And there is LOTS of business to go around.

What do you think?  Am I crazy here?


  1. Nope, not crazy at all. I totally agree! When I meet a competitor and she looks at me with daggers, my first thought is that she must not be confident in her offering. Most of my business comes from referrals from “competitors!” Thanks for pointing it out, Krista. And welcome back from South America!

  2. Hi Kelley

    Thanks for the comment – great to hear from you. I love that you get your referrals from “competitors”…. so many people miss out!

    – Krista

  3. jon schlinkert says

    Nice post Krista, thank you. For folks interested in building on this concept there is a great book called Co-Opetition that focuses on this very topic.

  4. keya benberry says

    Totally agree with you lady! in the real estate business, many agents want everyone to know how long they’ve been doing it, how much they know, and how they have little time to deal w/ you! Others of us, choose to work by your philosophy and work together. We share secrets and ideas with each other and are willing to work together and not against each other to get deals done. It just makes our working lifes easier! Thanks for the blog. Hopefully these type personalities are reading it too!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andrea Colaianni and others. Andrea Colaianni said: Competition vs. Cooperation? How do you view your Business? < interesting point […]

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