The Partnership Principle: Why Compete or Die is Death to Your Local Business

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This post is from the Local Rock Star archives. It originally appeared on Renia’s first blog about business back in 2008.

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Be honest, how many Monday mornings make you feel like this gal?

Tired Woman Resting on Windowsill
Photo by Maaike Nienhuis on Unsplash


Do you train on Sunday evenings like a boxer prepares for a fight? Does your local business marketing leave you feeling bruised and battered?

Put on your gloves, jog a little to warm up, invoke a mental image of your competition’s face while you punch a few warm-ups. If you’re lucky, you briskly “jog” into your office each week knowing that this is a fight you can win. You’ll knock-em-out this week.

Isn’t it exhausting?

The best professional boxers only step into the ring 2-4 times a year. Yet as entrepreneurs, we do it week after week. Every Monday, 50 or so times each year.

Want to get out of the ring for a change and still make some big dough?  

Then it’s time to forget the old notion of compete or die. 

I spent a number of years working as a retail manager and a banker. Putting on your gloves was a key ingredient to success. Head down, deuces up, dance quickly around your opponent because if you want to get to the top of the mountain in corporate America you’ve got to be faster, fiercer, and better prepared than the suit sitting next to you. You might tell me it doesn’t always work this way, and maybe that’s true for some innovative companies, but I found it to be the case both in a big bank and a small foreign retail establishment. Lucky for me, at least I believed at the time, I know a thing or two about training hard and fighting fast. I was always at the top. And I was always EXHAUSTED.

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Who wants to win if you have to step on everyone else to get there?

When I first started my company I assumed that owning a business worked just like the corporate world: Enter the ring against your opponent and come out with a belt (or in my case the referral). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that success in business is often more fun and a lot easier if you work with your so-called competitors.

Be honest now, how many of you did I lose right there?

If you’re still reading take a deep breath and hear me out.

Most of us are in industries full of a vast array of products and services.  If 80% of your business comes from one or two areas what would happen if you referred the other 20% to someone else in your industry who specializes in that area?

For instance, there is an almost incomprehensible number of financial products available to financial advisors. However, most of the advisors I know (and I know a ton of them) specialize in one or two products. So if I’m a financial advisor who sells primarily in fee-based managed accounts, what would happen if I referred all of my life insurance opportunities to someone who specializes in insurance? I bet after four or five referrals that agent would start getting the hint and refer their clients to me. We both have the same target, we both know how to position the industry, and we’ve now doubled our potential.

Has that financial advisor lost a few life insurance deals? Sure, but what has he gained?

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Are you so busy trying to knock out your opponent that you’re missing an opportunity to collaborate?

This happens to me with web designers all the time. I don’t, can’t, wouldn’t dream of trying to design a website from scratch by myself.  I’d just about walk through fire to find one who understood that their skill set usually doesn’t marry well with the skill set needed to be successful as a strategist. I could refer websites every day to that designer. For most small design companies, I could probably sustain their business for them. Instead, I usually end up in the ring with them, trying to educate clients about the difference between knowledge of WordPress and understanding how to create engaging content and properly setup technical SEO.

If you’re an entrepreneur whose boggarting (you know who you are) you’re on notice.

A fun and inspiring business looks more like a dance floor than a boxing ring.

You still need fast feet, but you’ll leave with a smile rather than a black eye.

Let’s do away with compete or die. Instead, cooperate and thrive.



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