From an evolutionary standpoint, altruism remains somewhat of a mystery. Why would wild animals help a peer at a cost to themselves? Certain types of monkeys, for instance, call out to warn their peers when predators are near even though the noise exposes their own location and increases the chances of them becoming the target. Other animals might care for one another’s offspring or cooperate with a completely different species. While understanding how these traits evolved poses numerous problems for researchers, understanding their benefits is another matter entirely.
Throughout my career, I have run into resentful people looking to block my ability to make progress in my business or even destroy what I had built. In spite of these people, and possibly even because of them, I own a successful business 20 years later.
They taught me an important career lesson: Even though you will likely be shocked and disappointed by the people who try to tear you down, supporters will also emerge from surprising places.
Keeping Things “Co-Operative”
Competition is by no means a bad thing. It can often be what drives people and pushes them to improve, but it is important to recognize when cooperation is actually better for your career. Still, rushing to collaborate with your competitors the instant you need their help will never work. Trust is built in very small moments that add up over time; you can only reap the benefits if you sow the seeds of cooperation well in advance.
Cooperation also keeps bridges intact that egotistic competitors might burn.
One of my peers in the property management space, has taught me many times about the benefits of cooperation. Not only is his platform a total game changer for my brick-and-mortar business (and for reducing errors, stress and miscommunication), but his friendship has also been even more valuable than his technology. From day one, he has been curious not only about my business as his customer, but also about how he could help support me in developing side projects. We have made introductions to each other that have increased profits and exposure for both of us, enriching our careers in ways we have not even realized yet.
These relationships are the kind that can transform careers, but forming them can sometimes be tough. To help, follow these steps.
1. Research to find a mutually beneficial peer in your space.
You know who she is. You have watched her speak or read her books, and you may feel a twinge of jealousy thinking she has some superpower that you do not. You want to absorb as much as you can from her and may feel like she is out of your league. Good news: She is not.
The competitor you are observing can eventually become your mentor. Beyond that, the relationship can become mutually beneficial. By picking your competition’s brain, learning her (willing) trade secrets, and sharing what you know from your experience and asking for hers in return, a relationship can flourish between you and your newfound competitive partner. And it is important to remember that more is accomplished when teaching and learning are involved than when information and good advice are withheld.
In acknowledging this, that is what my peer in the property management space eventually became for me: a wealth of knowledge and a dependable support system in our shared space.
2. Ask for expertise, and spread that gospel.
Another great way to complement your competition is to conduct an interview with them. Learn everything you can. This shows that you value their presence in the marketplace. This is a great way to take the first step toward solidifying a respected competitive partner relationship. Then, spread their knowledge to anyone and everyone you think could benefit, and cite the source every step of the way. If you get turned down for an interview, change your approach and try again. If you still cannot reach them, it was not meant to be. Onto the next!
3. Offer your great idea for free.
If you have a great idea for a competitor in your space, set it free and watch it grow. I had an idea that seemed like a potential breakthrough for his business, so I immediately called him to share it. The idea would create more exposure and credibility for his team nationwide, and it would cost next to nothing once his tech team developed it. He was floored, and the fact that my intentions were pure helped solidify my lifelong mentor.
4. Are they really your competitors?
After I had been featured on a podcast another competitor in my space came out of the woodwork. Her property management company is just 45 minutes north of mine, approached me to pick my brain about how I had succeeded thus far in my space. She needed a mentor. Because of our proximity to each other, anyone else would see us as direct competitors. But once I met her, I adored her immediately, and I had to help.
Like me, she was a hardworking, single mother, and in that moment, I could not hold anything back. Thus, I willingly shared the platforms I used and why, I steered her away from potential pitfalls, and I celebrated her successes. Today, we are good friends and each other’s cheerleaders and advocates—she was even one of the first clients to sign up for my development coaching program. Had I considered her competition from the start, this beautiful friendship never would have flourished, and we never would have reaped the benefits. It is empowering to celebrate others’ successes, and it is also a key in business. When we support one another, we begin to see real results.
Just as detractors will emerge from the people you thought you could count on in your career, supporters will emerge from your competition to help you further it. There are amazing and kind people everywhere who can help you achieve as much as possible, and the best way to find them is by reaching out and helping others with no ulterior motive.