One of the worst feelings I ever had was being spied on by a business competitor. My small company had several hundred employees and our niche in the industry was in the manufacturing of medical devices. My industry partner was a company located in another state that was a direct competitor in almost every way. To me it felt like every time I turned around I could hear them talking about their product, service, price, and even the marketing plan. It got to the point where I actually started thinking back on some of my past business deals and asked myself if they were really worth the trouble of competing with them.
We eventually decided to move on from being openly discussed between us and our two business competitors. Some of the reasons were obvious and had nothing to do with the quality of our products or services. Some of the reasons we considered were more personal to us. My husband and I felt our businesses were so different that we should stay away from working together. But our friendship did become a problem when one of our business competitors bragged about winning an award that year for their outstanding performance.
Ironically it was a team we had formed to help each other find new business that actually helped us get into the competition with our new business partner. The funny thing was that they actually had us beat in the awards category for several years in a row. The fact that my competitors and I were both new business owners made all the difference in the world when it came to understanding how to best tackle business competition.
Over the years we have changed the names of our companies many times and sometimes referred to each other by our middle names. Sometimes we have also tried to up the ante a little by changing the colors of our logos. And of course, each year we have invited our competitors to be our guest speakers at our annual meeting. My husband and I always joke that it is like a contest to see who can bring the most awards to our company. I never realized that we actually have financial books and ledgers stuffed with the numbers of all the awards we have received over the years!
I have to admit that I have been challenged by some of my business peers since we first launched our company. There are always those who will pit me against their friends or family members. I find this somewhat disheartening because although we compete in business, we do not compete in the same ways or for the same length of time. As I mentioned earlier, we both started our businesses at different times and with different goals.
One thing we have always enjoyed is getting to know each other’s biggest weakness and talking about it. In fact, we do not even discuss the competition until someone mentions it. I think part of what makes our relationship so unique is that we tend to talk about our friends and family, but rarely discuss our business competitors.