This week I had two amazing conversations. One with someone many people think I would be competing with and one with a prospective client.
My partners in these conversations were in completely different businesses. Their clientele is not at all the same. The work they do to serve others is, except for one crucial area, also completely different. So what did we talk about that was in common?
In both conversations, the topic of competition came up. In the first case, I talked with a financial advisor who serves her clients by teaching them about investing so they understand how their money is working for them. She believes her clients should be aware of the risks along with the benefits of investing. This way they are going in with their eyes wide open. I too want to educate my clients, but in a different way, regarding daily money habits. One might think we compete, but we actually complement each other's business.
In the second case, we talked about how he has carved out a section of business that he can truly serve well. He did this by sitting down with his competitors and talking honestly about their strengths and weaknesses in serving clients. By talking as professionals looking to improve their business instead of getting every client at all costs, they now share business back and forth. He gets clients from his "competitors" that he can serve better, and he gives clients to the "competitors" that they can serve better. How many of us go through each day not even considering such a symbiotic relationship can exist?
I've written before about the honor of business. I believe this is another case where doing business is not about profit, but about serving. The profit should come as you serve others extremely well.
Perhaps, in addition to client relationships, it is time to think about building relationships with your competitors. You may find you have more in common than you think.
Even better, you may find that you can help each other and serve clients amazingly in the process. Seems like a win-win-win situation to me.