WARNING! I’m on my soapbox!
I run across people all the time that act as if the marketplace is a warzone, look out for numero uno!, business is competitive!, it’s dog-eat-dog out there!, and other similar (and unfortunate) attitudes. Life is rough for these people and it usually doesn’t get any better; mostly due to their competitive mindset. Business doesn’t have to be so cut-throat; in fact, it shouldn’t be at all.
Business is not competitive. What!?! What did I just say? Yes, that’s right. Business is not competitive. Business is collaborative and always has been.
Business is all about people and relationships. It’s wanting the best for others at the same time you’re wanting the best for yourself. It’s about caring.
There are actually businesses like this. Successful ones. There are business owners who believe in collaboration and actively seek to build relationships. They freely share information, best practices, and time. They seek and share knowledge. I am a business owner like this and I’ve been a business attorney for 15 years – I am not naïve, I know it’s possible.
For service businesses, this is especially important. Services are personal; it’s about the people and their relationships with one another. Regardless of whether we are talking about external relationships with clients/customers or internal relationships with co-workers, employees, or co-owners; no matter what, it’s all about the relationships, and it’s ALL important.
At the end of the day, the work is about collaboration. To collaborate means that more than one person is working toward the same goal. Yes! This is exactly what business is! As a professional service provider, even the legal work I do for clients is collaborative. I’m working WITH our clients to produce the results that they want. I’m not working in a silo or a vacuum – no one can work that way.
Even successful product-based businesses do this. Let’s say a retail store sells the same type of widgets that another store sells. I mean the SAME type, SAME function, SAME product. One store, “Store A”, is set up to provide an “experience” for their customer that conveys a message (their brand). “Store B” is a no-frills, discount-atmosphere store. A customer buying the widget in Store A gets a completely different feeling than buying it in Store B down the street; it’s intentional. You get this, right? I mean we all instinctively know this and have experienced this. My point is – it’s all collaborative. These stores could consider themselves competitors in selling the same products. But they aren’t; they have the same end goal – to sell widgets. Ultimately, the customer is buying the experience.
Let’s switch back to service-based businesses using our firm as an example. Our firm is a legal service business. There are many, many other law firms in Jacksonville and even more throughout Florida practicing business law as we do. There may even be some that focus on service professionals (although none that we are aware of). We are not competing with any of them. What we offer is different than anything they offer – even if they are technically the same legal services (i.e. draft a contract, create a partnership agreement, etc.); we provide an experience. We offer explanations and education, promotion of good business decisions, development (for us and our clients) of deep and trusting relationships, complete understanding and non-judgment of past business mistakes, encouragement, and guidance with business opportunities – which all combine into a specific type of environment for our firm and a specific type of experience for our clients. Our choice, to build a collaborative relationship with our clients, allows the client to receive the result they are looking for and allows us to fulfill our mission. Win-win.
When a client/customer selects your business, they are seeking the best option for their desired outcome. Collaborative relationships are the surest way to achieve the common goal – and isn’t that really what it’s about?