This past week I had the honor of speaking at the first ever MINBOUND conference in Minnesota. It was an absolute blast. The thing I love about opportunities like this, is that not only did I have a chance to share, crack dumb jokes, and talk about some cool work done with my clients...but, I had the chance to learn, as well.
Heading into the conference I noticed something. A former co-worker of mine, Gregg Litman was presenting a session just before lunch. "Cool!" I thought. (I knew he would absolutely nail it, because Gregg knows his stuff.)
But, a friend of mine brought up a different point, "Aren't you afraid that you'll be competing? I mean, you do similar jobs and probably are looking for the same type of clients."
I sat there, thinking about it. And finally said, "You know what? I don't think we are competing. If anything, I think we have completely different skill sets that would suit two very different types of clients well. I'd gladly refer someone to Gregg, because I know they'd be well taken care of."
But, to be honest - for a minute I second guessed myself. Was a being naive? Everyone I speak to spends so much time worrying about their competition. So, I asked myself,
"Should I be worrying more about what the other guys are doing? Should I be "protecting" my business from competitors? Should I be afraid?"
This, quite frankly...bummed me out, and left a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I truly believe that being aware of your competitors is smart, of course - but, I know way too many people who spend SO much time analyzing what others are doing, that when the time comes to innovate, they are sucked dry by fear of being bested by the competition. This type of fear in the creative process can be paralyzing. It creates roadblocks, and makes it impossible to try new things. And, in many cases...the approach that should have been used for a client, is pushed by the wayside - because of what the "other" guys are doing, and the desire to not rock the boat "too much."
Collaboration With Competitors
I started thinking about other relationships I have in town with talented people. Like Elizabeth Giorgi, a fellow girl boss. We've had this conversation many times, that we "technically" should "hate" each other, and avoid trading industry secrets, if we knew what was good for us (haha). But, to be honest - I'd like nothing more than the chance to work with her on a project someday. The cool thing about our relationship, is that we can be honest with each other about things. I remember her saying to me, "Was I bummed when I saw you got to work with Science Museum? Of course. Was I happy that it was you? Of course. I also know that I'll end up getting projects you'll probably want to work on, and we'll go back and forth like this as long as we're in business. I know I've probably gotten projects you would have loved to be on as well." Truth, amen sista. And we've even tossed around the idea of collaborating on an upcoming project - that would be GREAT! The same holds true for dozens of production pals in town. I am part of a freelancing group, dubbed "The Clutch" by founding members Zach Peterson and Tom Forliti. Last year we all pooled resources and shot a project for fun, it was a blast. Yes, a lot of us are competitors. But, in the end, it didn't matter - because we were all learning something new we could take back to our own individual clients, anyway. Win win.
At MINBOUND, I asked Gregg what he thought about people thinking we were competitors. He laughed, and said, "No way. We do two completely different things, different styles." I agreed and pointed out, "I think you're right! And, in the end...my style doesn't work for everyone, and either does yours. I want to work with people who gravitate towards what I do so we speak the same language, and I'm sure you want the same." Gregg, "Exactly!"
So, I'm going to continue to post content from my "competitors". Cool stats like this from Gregg's deck at MINBOUND15.
Why? Because I'm not the only creative director or speaker in town, and because there IS more than one way of doing things. It would be a disservice to the folks I work with, if I DIDN'T bring them this info.
Maybe, just maybe...if we spend less time "fearing" that our clients will find another provider, and MORE time trying to bring them value and perspective from ALL sources, the relationships will naturally fall where they make the most sense.
For more information on anything in the article, feel free to e.mail me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org