From an evolutionarily 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’ve run into resentful people looking to block my ability to make progress in my business or even destroy what I’d 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’ll 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’s 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, Property Meld CEO Ray Hespen, 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 Ray’s friendship has also been even more valuable than his technology. From day one, he’s been curious not only about my business as his customer, but also about how he could help support me in developing side projects. We’ve made introductions to each other that have increased profits and exposure for both of us, enriching our careers in ways we haven’t 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’ve watched her speak or read her books, and you may feel a twinge of jealousy thinking she has some superpower that you don’t. You want to absorb as much as you can from her and may feel like she’s out of your league. Good news: She’s not.
The competitor you’re 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’s 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’s what Ray 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 her. Learn everything you can. This shows that you value her presence in the marketplace. This is a great way to take the first step toward solidifying a respected competitive partner relationship. Then, spread her 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 can’t reach her, it wasn’t 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 Ray’s 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 competitor?
After I’d been featured on a podcast by Jason Hull with DoorGrow (who, coincidentally, I once perceived as my competition), another competitor in my space came out of the woodwork. Stacey Slayer, whose property management company is just 45 minutes north of mine, approached me to pick my brain about how I’d 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.
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.
Like me, Stacey was a hardworking, single mother, and in that moment, I couldn’t 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’re 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 Stacey competition from the start, this beautiful friendship never would’ve flourished, and we never would have reaped the benefits. It’s empowering to celebrate others’ successes, and it’s 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.