Winning is a great feeling. When you land a new project or gain a new client you feel validated. Your work and your talent are valued. You’ve demonstrated that you are just as worthy as those other designers out there, maybe better. So shouldn’t you play to win?
Well, yes and no. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to win. In fact, it would be detrimental to your business if you weren’t motivated to compete for clients and projects. Regrettably, though, in our culture, we tend to celebrate a “win/lose” mentality. It’s not enough for us to win. We want the other party to acknowledge defeat. We see this in sports, of course, but it pervades the business world as well. Today’s business news is rife with stories about unfair competition and big companies swallowing up little companies to avoid the competition they present.
Collaboration is not capitulation
Not all cultures regard competition the same way. Some take a “win/win” approach and find that it’s better for everyone concerned. You’ve heard the old saying, a rising tide floats all boats. When rival companies or groups collaborate, they both gain. That doesn’t mean they stop competing. They’re not colluding to divvy up the market among themselves. Rather, they realize that their competitor may have knowledge, skills, technologies, access to resources, or other assets that they lack and from which they could mutually benefit. You won’t be giving away all of your industry secrets!
Markets and clients are not trophies
Competitors who collaborate understand that there is enough business to support both, or all of them. Unlike a sporting competition, it is not a winner-takes-all scenario. You can share certain aspects of your business with a competitor without threatening your viability or success. No matter how good of a designer you are, not every client is going to want your type of design. And you don’t want every type of client. Through collaboration, you each can get more of what you do want.
Collaborate to grow
Areas in which you might consider collaborating with one or more competitors include:
- Referring projects or clients that don’t align with your mission and business objectives
- Sharing some types of business intelligence
- Subscribing to sources of information of mutual interest
- Splitting delivery and/or warehousing costs
- Sharing information about products and vendors or other resources
- Passing along recommendations for a potential hire or service provider
Collaborate to give back
Another way in which you can collaborate and benefit the profession as a whole is by sharing your knowledge and insights with other designers and/or small business owners. Because of the maxim “knowledge is power,” some people believe they have to guard their knowledge to protect their position, their status and their competitiveness. What they fail to realize is that knowledge is not like a balloon that deflates when you let the air out. Rather, knowledge is like an ocean from which you can draw to give to others. You’ll never deplete your store because it is constantly being renewed. However much you choose to share, you will still be miles ahead of the competition due to your years of experience.
Consider forming a mastermind group of your peers where you can safely share certain kinds of information about business trends and opportunities, problem-solve together, and relate best practices and lessons learned. Present at conferences or local meetings of your professional or business organization. Mentor a younger designer or individual wanting to start their own business. Get involved with the design program at your local college or university.
It’s said that you get what you give. When you collaborate, you’re gaining as well as giving. You’re a recipient as well as a provider. The more ways you collaborate, the more you get back—in knowledge, in relationships, in self and professional development, and, yes, in competitiveness. Save the “win/lose” attitude for the playing field. Think “win/win” for greater business success.
Collaborating with Pearl Collective
Our programs reflect a desire to collaborate with those who some may consider competitors. Whether you attend a challenge, join a Boardroom, or interact with us in a different way, you’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder with other designers who want help in their business. Rather than keeping secrets from each other, our business owners share nearly everything with each other, in confidence. They usually operate in different markets, and know that they won’t be stealing clients from each other. If they were in the same market, they would still prefer different types of projects and clients and could work together for mutual success.