Last week, I had the genuine pleasure of meeting with Jon Moss to talk about his ideas for a site he started called businesschatt.com. Jon asked if I would like to be a contributor to the site, and told me a bit about what it hopes it will become. Keep your eye on it, Jon has some great ideas.
Over the course of the conversation, we talked about networking in general, events we’d both attended, online magazines, social networking and the divides we see among different groups of professionals. At some point, Jon said, “My motto is ‘collaboration is the new competition.’” He was quick to point out that someone else said it first, but the quote speaks to how he tries to run his business. As it turns out, Jon and I have a similar approach to work.
Some of my clients are quite concerned about what their competitors are doing and particularly about other people stealing their ideas. Sometimes I will meet with a prospective client but decide not to work with him because of that sense of fear. It’s impossible to effectively use social media for marketing if you afraid to say anything.
Fear is pervasive in our society. New cars have doors that lock themselves because people are terrified of being carjacked. Students in schools practice “lock down” because administrators are afraid of armed intruders. You name it, there is someone who is afraid of it. I have my own share of irrational fears – getting food poisoning comes to mind. I worry about it every time I eat food from a restaurant.
A couple of years ago, I watched a movie that was set in London during World War II. I don’t remember the name of the movie, but I do remember one scene where all the characters were at a dance. In London. During the war. The characters made jokes about the sound of bombs falling, but they kept dancing.
Residents of London in 1946 had something to fear, yet they still managed to have parties. Perhaps we would behave the same today, faced with a similar set of circumstances but it doesn’t seem likely.
Of course, being afraid the business across the street will steal your idea and being afraid you will be attacked are different, but in some ways they are the same. If fear stops you from doing something you want to do or that you need to do, then it doesn’t matter what you are afraid of because the result is the same. Paralysis.
Being afraid of your competitors shouldn’t hold your business back. If you are afraid to have a Facebook Page because you think your competitors will go through the list of people who “like” your page in an attempt to “steal” your customers you have bigger problems than marketing.
There are times when secrecy is necessary, such as prior to a big launch, or during the development phase of a new product or service. But that secrecy should not be born of fear. There is much to be gained through open conversation with customers and with competitors.