I am sure you think this headline is a mistake, that I meant to say something else, but I really mean this. If you want to build a successful business in a vibrant marketplace, you will grow faster if you help your competitors.

Before you decide I am completely crazy, consider the following:

  1. You don’t know everything. Hanging around with other business owners in the same industry gives you a chance to learn a few things in  exchange for sharing a few tips of your own.
  2. Improve the quality and perception of your industry. If a customer has a bad experience with a service provider in your industry, it’s easy for them to assume that all companies who do what you do are the same. Getting involved with trade associations which offer training, professional and business development will improve the overall industry in which you are a participant.
  3. Everyone is not your customer. Getting to know companies who provide similar services to yours in slightly different niches gives you an chance to set up a referral relationship where each company actually gets more of the kind of customers they want to work with.
  4. Customers need education. This is particularly true when you are trying to build awareness and demand for a new or different product or service. Customers may be unwilling to try your product or service if you are the only company talking about this approach, but when multiple companies all tout the same benefits, all of you have an easier time making a sale.
  5. Everyone needs a little positive karma. Sometimes it’s just nice to pay it forward. When I started Roundpeg, I reached out to a few business owners who had been running marketing firms for awhile. They graciously gave me time, tips and tools to help me get started. Today I do the same. I like being able to look around the community and know that I played a role in helping other businesses get their start.

I was inspired to write this post after reading about the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream program. Through loans, seminars and coaching programs, they support new craft brewers and pubs. Why grow their competitors? When they started this program, the craft beer movement was in its infancy. Helping these small brewers get started helps grow the market overall and creates positive buzz for Sam Adams, positioning them as a leader in their industry. They learned that helping their competitors was a win-win.

What about you? When was the last time you helped yourself and paid if forward by helping a competitor?