I consider competition a business that wants to see your business fail. They are usually unfriendly to you, talk bad about your business, and in general do everything they can to steal your customers. But just because another business does the same thing as you doesn’t mean they need to be your competition. Turning them into a friend can actually help both your businesses.

I really saw the benefits competing businesses becoming friends a few years ago when I worked with a specialty garden shop. The owner, Tim became friends with the manager of a big garden center store, Josh. Tim did this by going to the store and introducing himself to the owner and managers. He was very forward with them by saying that he owns Sow & Sow Garden Store and that he is looking to refer customers to another store when he can help them. The owner thought Tim was trying to get in on their business but the head manager Josh understood where Tim was coming from. Tim really took pride in helping his customers any way that he could, he knew that even if he sent a customer to his competition that that customer would still remember Tim’s business and come back. And if they didn’t he at least knew that the customer would be taken care of. Josh saw this and was willing to take the time to get to know each other’s business better.

Even though some of their major services and products overlapped. There were things that Josh’s store did that Tim’s business didn’t and vise versa. They agreed to send each other that type of business. It took a few months but soon Tim was able to send a few customers he couldn’t help over to Josh’s store. Soon after that people started to trickle in to Tim’s store that were sent by Josh.

By befriending his competition Tim was able to help his own business, his customers, and now his friend’s business. It also shows your customer your good character and values. Tim didn’t do this sort of thing for all the competing garden stores, he only worked with two that met his standards and was comfortable sending his customers to.

This week, take another look at your competition, are they really your competition? Or another business that can benefit from a mutual business friendship. If you don’t know who owns the business, reach out to your network and see if any one does.