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How to work collaboratively with competitors

The mere suggestion of teaming up with the competition may strike fear into the hearts of business owners, but many are now looking at working with their competitors locally and nationally in order to stay afloat in tough times. Here are our tips for building a successful collaborative relationship.

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A recent survey by online takeaway company Just Eat found that 30% of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK believed that working with competitors could help their company to grow over the next 12 months – more than those that believed a resolution to the Eurozone crisis would.

This suggests that businesses are looking closer to home to weather the recession by teaming up with businesses either in the same industry or location.

The survey also found that many businesses (86%) were already working with competitors in some way; however 22% said they would be less likely to cooperate with a competing business if the economy improved.

Benefits of collaborating with competitors

  • Increased sales and profitability
  • Access to services and resources that might otherwise be too expensive
  • It can help you both take on larger competition
  • Economies of scale – reduced costs
  • Networking
  • Improvements in efficiency
  • Skill sharing.

Tips for working with competitors

Before entering into a collaboration think 'what can we offer each other?' Collaborative business relationships should be mutually beneficial.

Have a clear agreement – depending on the level of involvement you plan on having with the other company, you may need to draw up legal documents and service level agreements.

Protect your intellectual property – make sure that all your company's IP rights are protected by the appropriate trademarks, patents and registered designs before you potentially share them with the competition.

Only give as much as you're comfortable with – but it should be a balanced relationship, so don't expect.

Retain what makes your business unique – this may not be the product or price (in fact, businesses which compete solely on price are often not suitable for collaboration) but more to do with the quality of your service or added value that you bring to customers.

Have an exit strategy – not all collaborations work out and you should know from the start what to do if either or both parties wish to end the relationship.

To find out how the Forum can help you with contracts and protect your business with the right insurance, call us on 01565 626 001.

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