Collabo-tition: Turn your competitors into collaborators and win!


So… you’re starting (or running) a space, and there are others running spaces in your area!

How do you treat these other people who are doing similar work to the work you are wanting to do?

When you arrive at this place, you have a choice: go the old way, or consider the new way.

If you’re willing, I think there is a tremendous opportunity here that can be accessed through a (perhaps not easy) but ultimately simple shift in mindset.

Exhibit A: Typical Business

“Other people who do similar things to what I do are my Competitors, and thus are enemies not to be trusted. I must hoard my ideas, information, and clients, lest the Competitors take them from me!”

Others out there can have this mindset. I’ve experienced it in NY, and it can be brutal.

So, while others may think this way, do you need to think this way?

Perhaps not. As an alternative, I present:

Exhibit B: 21st Century Business

“Other people who do similar things to what I do are my Colleagues and Collaborators, and thus are allies to be befriended. I must share my ideas, information, and clients, so that my Collaborators can help me grow them!

Is this not the culture we want to perpetuate amongst the members of our communities? How can we be demonstrating that in everything we do, from the very beginning?

You and these other leaders want to foster small business and make the world a better place.

I don’t know the specifics of the politics in your city, but if there’s any way you can forge a good relationship, then…

  • …existing spaces could help you incubate your idea without you spending a dime on a your own space…
  • …goodwill is built for you and for them from the very start…
  • …you get a powerful ally in someone with experience in the coworking world…
  • …you get to relax and not worry about having some distant potential negative force out there competing with you.

Even if that’s too idealistic, I’d suggest at the very least forging some kind of a constructive relationship.

“Isolationism is no longer a practical policy.”

Have you ever seen Casablanca? 

Ferrari, the fez-wearing owner of the rival Blue Parrot bar, is clearly Rick’s bitter backstabbing competitor, but they’re also close personal friends. They do business together when it’s of mutual benefit.

Ultimately, when Rick has to leave town, he sells his place to Ferrari—a man he trusts to run things right.

I love this story, because it shows the benefits of having a good relationship with your competitor.

Benefits to having a good relationship with your “competitor”:

  1. When your internet goes down you can send your members somewhere.
  2. When their internet goes down they can send their members to you.
  3. When you need to get away from your own space to focus (and you will!) you’ll have a safe haven elsewhere!
  4. Share knowledge about good/bad vendors.
  5. “Blacklist” any super bad members who you might encounter.
  6. Potential increased collective power when dealing with the city / sponsors / etc.
  7. Peace of mind.
  8. One day you might sell your company to them.
  9. One day they might sell their company to you.

I’ll just add one last thought on hiding your idea:

You should expect that people WILL want to copy your idea. If it’s a good idea, then it’s already happening!

The idea is really not the issue. I could give you a hundred great ideas. (Actually, Seth Godin has 999 of them for you.)

The difference is in the execution.

I led the charge to build the first dedicated coworking space in NYC. Not because I was the first to think of it (I wasn’t), or the first to attempt it (I wasn’t).

I was the first one who summoned the unquenchable fire of human determination and said without equivocation that a space would be built, come hell or high water!

Nobody can compete with that. Or, more importantly, others can do it too… but it doesn’t take away from me.

I own my story. No one can stop me from realizing my dream, because it’s mine.

We’re talking about a complete shift in the world’s relationship with work. There will be zillions more coworking spaces in in a matter of years, and who knows beyond that.

This isn’t about fighting over a finite slice of pie. It’s about baking lots of pie!

Find the folks who like baking the kinds of pie you want to bake, and for heaven’s sakes get baking together!



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