Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Our Enemies' Friends Are Our Enemies, and Other Fallacies

In the Cold War era The U.S. and several other countries made some very big, incorrect, assumptions about how the world worked. The major assumption was that it was "us" against "the Communists." But the Communists included two major factions (Soviet Union and China) who had very different views about Communism than each other. They hated each other. In fact, we now know that they almost had a nuclear exchange at one point.

But we were blinded to the relationships between "our enemies" because we made two major assumptions:

1) Our friends' friends are our friends.

2) Our Enemies' Friends Are Our Enemies.

A great many resources, anger, frustration, and human lives were lost because of these misunderstandings.

Luckily, our business lives are not so dramatic. But we tend to make mistakes that are just as fundamental. Let's substitute competition for enemy.

If I put on a seminar, do I compete with SMB Nation? I hope most people will say no.

If I post a podcast, do I compete with the SBS Show? Again, I hope most people will say no.

If you write a book, do you compete with me? No.

If I open a computer shop across the street from you, do we compete? Again, no.

Restaurants and gas stations have figured out something that SMB consultants haven't. Where's the best place to open a restaurant? Across the street (or in the same complex) as a successful restaurant. Best place for a gas station? Across the street from a gas station.

Think about the world of the web. Amazon isn't really Amazon. It's a collection of Borders Books, Amazon, Toys R Us, the Discovery Channel, etc. In other words, it's a place to go for a whole variety of stuff. Their goal is that you'll always check Amazon, whether you're looking for magazines, pet supplies, cell phones, or anything else.

Attitude Shift
I offer remote technical support. I can do virtually anything remotely. So why am I a "Northern California" consultant? I could compete head to head with you by simply cold-calling into your market instead of mine. In calendar 2006 we expanded our Bay Area presence dramatically. Some of our top ten clients are now a three hour drive away.

Does it matter? Are Bay Area consultants shaking in their boots? No.

As I've told the members of our local SBS Partner Group, I don't see anybody in the room as competition. In twelve years, we've never faced off against any of them for a job.

We have, however, hired some of them for jobs.
And we've been hired by some of them.
And we've referred clients to them.
And they've referred clients to us.
And we've banded together to host events.
And we've educated one another.
And we've helped each other.
- We've helped each other find products and prices.
- We've helped each other in crises.
- We've helped each other find vendors and answers.

And so forth.

So, in the big picture, are we competition? Yes. Does that mean we can't be friends? No.
Some consultants want to only listen and lurk. They don't want to participate because they're afraid someone will steal their ideas and their clients. Those consultants are limiting their own success.

To all those consultants I say: Come join the party. There's a bunch of money, comaraderie, and opportunity over on this side of the room. Visit three partner group meetings and see what you find. I think you'll stay.

And you might even come away with a cool souvenir. It won't be a Soviet Army watch, but you might get a T-Shirt!
In addition to your local partner group, consider other "professional" organizations: SMBTN (http://www.smbtn.org), Mobilize SMB (http://www.mymspsn.com), ICCA (http://www.icca.org), ASCII (http://www.ascii.com), the new MSP Partners (http://www.msppartners.com), or whatever Vlad comes up with next.

Bottom line: There are many organizations that help us all to grow as individuals and profitable companies. Join, participate, get involved!

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