Moving From Competition to Collaboration

As a small business owner, it can be very easy to get into the mindset that it is my business vs. my competitors or my business vs. the world.  It can be very easy to put my business on an island and fight the competition that wants to come across my shores.  Competition is not necessarily a bad thing.  I need to continuously improve and adapt in order for my business to thrive in the marketplace and competition is a driving force to do that.  But I believe that when our businesses see other businesses just as competition, we miss the opportunity to learn from each other and make each other better through collaboration.

I am a part of a CPA network called Thriveal.  It is a group of entrepreneurial small CPA and accounting practices across the US (and Australia!) that believe that collaboration and learning from each other makes us all better.   On a basic level, we are all competitors.  Some of us serve the same niches or markets.  It would be very easy to close ourselves off from each other.  But as stated in Thriveal’s manifesto, we believe in collaboration and learning from each other.

We believe in learning from our world, our peers, our teams and our customers.  The ability to humbly learn from others is what will make us better at every aspect of running our firms.  We do not seek to ‘tell others’ what they should do, but recognize the individuality of each separate firm, and only seek to ‘add to’ the learning of others.  But ‘adding to’ the learning of others does not mean we shrink from challenging firm leaders to higher and higher levels of learning.  We do not agree with mediocrity simply because doing new things is hard.  We expose mediocrity.  We will seek each other out to become better at what we do, always focused on making each other better at leading our firms.  We are learners and will always be changing because we are always learning.

In essence, Thriveal is a group of disruptive CPA firms who want to collaborate with each other and by doing so, make all of our firms better.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with Renee Taylor, a CPA with a firm similar to mine, based out of Asheville, NC.  In a competition focused mindset, I could have easily held all of my cards close to my chest and had a very superficial conversation about how our firms were doing, but there would have been no fruit from that conversation.  Instead, in our collaboration focused mindset, we got to spend time learning from each other and have a fruitful conversation about different strategies we were using to reach potential clients.  I came away from that conversation with insights on how I can be a better CPA firm.  I would not have gained anything from that conversation if I had a competition focused mindset.

Collaboration with my “competitors” is a beautiful thing.   Through a collaboration focused mindset, my business becomes better and my relationships with my peers moves from adversarial/cordial to cooperative/fruitful.   I no longer try to fight for business with my competitors, rather I look for ways that we can learn from each other and be better businesses for our customers and clients.   How does your business collaborate with your “competitors?”  How are you finding ways to move from competition to collaboration in your business?