Since I’ve had some extra time on my hands, I finally got around to reading Alison Stein Wellner’s piece in Inc.’s March issue: “Let’s Be Friends: It seems nuts. But new research says that CEOs who become pals with their rivals do better than those who don’t.”
I’m so glad to see that the research is showing what many of us know to be true in practice — that we all succeed better together. No reason that can’t apply to entrepreneurs, CEOs, even competitors! In the past, I always got to know my competition when I was in key posts. Deloitte CMO, Starwood CMO… There were multiple reasons for doing so. One, more focus on getting your own stuff right is needed than on beating the other guy in order to succeed. Two, you never know where you or they will end up over the long term. Sure I appreciate a healthy rivalry, but again, that does not mean you cannot be friends around such a rivalry. (In the “Let’s Be Friends” article, there’s a great line — “It’s better to have your butt whipped by a friend than an enemy. At least that way you’re more likely to find out why.”) And three, of course, you can actually learn a lot from each other as well.
Now, as founder of a sales & marketing consulting firm and a training/speaking business, I think about competition in two ways. I don’t have any competition. By the same token, everyone is my competition. The point is that any company can choose to go it alone without outside support relative to sales and marketing, or they could decide to use one of the big guys or another specialist group like ourselves. What I worry about is not if my “competition” is going to be a success, but if my business is shaping up as I would like. Our growth rate has been extraordinary so far, and I need to assure that our processes and talent keeps pace.
Let’s look at each line of FerrazziGreenlight business. First, on the consulting side, I reach out to CEOs of other consulting firms that I aspire to be like to get guidance all the time. I hope to meet the leaders of Monitor Consulting, as I hope someday to have as large and thriving a practice as they have built. I am meeting with Michael Porter — this week actually — because I greatly admire him and want to know how he founded that firm.
I meet with other training and development houses and even refer business to them when we are at capacity. In the meantime, I learn so much and never feel that shadow of paranoia. I am paranoid, but not paranoid that someone else will be successful, too — just paranoid that I might miss something that will allow me to grow our business into the thriving institution that I want it to be over the years. I speak to folks like Tim Sanders. We recently traded tips on launching books because he just released his latest, The Likeablity Factor. I talk with Michael Hammer and Jason Jennings and the list goes on and on. Even others who have written networking books, like Diane Darling, or those who are writing networking books, like Jeff Meshel. I am even editing his manuscript. How much more friendly can you get?