Partnering to increase the pie

When coming from a traditional competitive environment, one where you fight with your competitors for the same deal, you might be hesitating to share with competitors. On the other hand, sharing and partnering might be the best tool to increase each other’s chances and hence increase the pie instead of fighting for the same piece of the pie.

In channel relations the collaboration is created to bring your products via a channel partner to the market. In a channel relation you will probably not partner with your competitor. But then, let’s first define what a competitor is. A competitor is to me only a competitor, if they serve the same market with the same solutions or products. For commodity products the competition may be higher and the definition wider than for knowledge-based services. In knowledge-based services, like consulting, every consultant will have his or her own specific elements that make them unique. Their products will be similar, but not the same.

Collaboration between the two parties with similar products can strengthen each other’s position and increase the pie. Sharing knowledge on markets and maybe even with customers will allow you to see the bigger pie, as it might be a piece of the pie that you cannot see from just your own position. It will however require strong (executive) supporters at each of the companies. The danger may be that either party will easily refer back to the old ‘divide and concur’ way of working, rather than a ‘sharing’ way of working.

Will it work everywhere? For companies that try to be everything to their customers it will be difficult. For commoditized products with a fierce competition it may be difficult too. For solo entrepreneurs it will definitely work. Often these solo entrepreneurs are their own bottleneck. They can only do so much work as their own schedule and knowledge allows. Growing beyond that boundary is difficult for them.

Take two consultants, both in the same field of work and seeing each other as a competitor. However, a closer look shows that one consultant is really good at designing and implementing new methodologies, but to have his customers accept it, he needs to do the training as well. The other is ok with the design and implementation, but his heart is really at the training and workshops to have customers adopt the new methodology. As long as these two consultants see each other as a competitor, they will be fighting for the same pie, maybe even for the same piece of the pie. When they realize that in fact they are complementary, they will be able to grow the pie instead. By sharing each other’s work among their customers, they will increase their personal added value to the customers too. The customer’s appreciation for their added value will grow and with that the chance for repeat work will grow as well.

By collaborating with others, consultants can follow their heart and focus on their core capabilities, create higher value services, have more fun, happier customers and a larger piece of a larger pie.