Collaborative strategies with competitors

Shrugged shouldersThere is nothing more ambiguous than a competitor writing to you asking to explore the possibilities of business collaboration. One immediately thinks, “You know I’m a competitor, right?”

Often they don’t. It only takes 30 seconds review of my companies' websites and for them to know this. Your instincts scream "Ignore the email. Move on!" They waste your time and their company's. 

Sometimes though, just sometimes, a competitor understands his place in the competitive eco-system and still emails. “Would you be interested in business collaboration?”, he says.

What does he mean, “business collaboration”? So you ask. And he is coy. Your suspicions are that he wants to sell a product or service to you. Why doesn't he just say that? Worse, it's probably another tyre-kicking exercise, you think.

However, you’re not the type to outright ignore the email so therefore patiently lay–out the available collaboration strategies. 

Here’s an actual exchange I had with a competitor today:


Wow! Yes, Kenelm. I’m near Manila. It’s a small world :) Would you like to move this conversation via phone call to collaborate and see what (sic) we can benefit from each other’s businesses?  

Well, we’re competitors! So business collaboration can only mean:

  1.         We merge;
  2.         My company acquires your company;
  3.         Your company acquires my company;
  4.         My company acts as an intermediary at a profit, because my rates are higher than yours;  
  5.         Your company acts as an intermediary at a profit, because your rates are higher than mine;
  6.         We share back office services.

I am not interested in 1, 2 or 3. Please advise your company's hourly rate so I can determine whether 4 or 5 are possibilities. I am interested in 6.


Unless it's a merger, acquisition or divestment proposal, ongoing collaboration with competitors rarely happens. If you are approached without a sharply-defined collaborative strategy, you are likely to be wasting your time as was the case in my example.

I did not receive the courtesy of a reply. Lesson learned.


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