General question: what happens if a competitor wants to work with you, too?
Highlights, in case you’re short on time:
- Most of the time, there’s more than enough to go around.
- It’s always better for me to be more immersed in your industry. You’re better off when I’m working with more people in your space.
- A true competitor offers the same thing to the same people as you do in the same way. If we’re both doing our jobs, it’s nearly impossible for you to have a true competitor.
- If it just doesn’t feel right to me or you, our agreed-to engagement takes precedence over the new service opportunity.
- I will inform you in cases that are anywhere close to a competitive conflict of interest so there are no surprises.
The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time. – Henry Ford
Ford’s statement pretty much sums up how I feel about worrying about competition. I’d rather be focusing on what we’re doing than what others are, but I understand that we each have different perspectives when it comes to how to understand competition. It’s awkward for everybody in a situation in which I’m working with two direct competitors.
Part of the discovery session is me determining whether the new prospect’s business presents a competitive or conflicting scenario; if it does, we discuss it to see whether the competition or conflict is actual or simply apparent. For instance, the new prospect may be focusing primarily on growing in a different market or using a completely different delivery methodology, in which case, there’s only an apparent competition or conflict and likely synergistic or referral opportunities.
General business and industry knowledge, research, contacts, operational best practices, and so on are also open to share; however, competitive advantages – including positioning statements – unique to your business would not be shared. Part of my job is to help you create a business that can’t be competed with due to your uniqueness or competitive advantages. If we create something that’s so easy to copy, we’ve failed anyway.
In most cases, it’s the new client that would have the most to gain, so when it is a case of true conflict, the existing client takes precedence.
The overriding principle is much like the Hippocratic oath to do no harm to clients, actively engaged or not; if I can help one client without hurting another, I will, and, in most cases, it’s to my clients’ interests for me to be more deeply immersed in their industry without becoming myopically locked within that industry.
As with any of our policies, if you’re not sure, feel free to ask for clarification.