Today I had an interesting discussion with some business colleagues about the value of networking and openness with similar businesses in our industry. This ‘debate’ was borne from a chance encounter and chat with Rob Glover, organiser of Digital Exeter. Digital Exeter is a community that aims to “connect, share and support all things digital”.
I am a big believer that sharing skills, knowledge and contacts is a very good thing – even if that might be with a direct competitor. The hypothetical “pie” is huge, and I only need a tiny slice to achieve my business and life goals, so if sharing helps me get my slice then I’m all for it.
My associates didn’t all agree. What can we gain from being in a room with our competitors? ‘We’re not going to be getting sales leads from this sort of networking so it is wasted time.’ From their point of view, giving away skills or tips to competitors could lead to a loss of competitive advantage at the worse, or time wasted as a minimum.
I said that at an event like Digital Exeter, not everyone is going to be a direct competitor. Some attendees will be the exact sort of advocates that Web Wise aims to partner with; business advisers, marketing consultants and coaches who maintain a network of trusted suppliers ready to take on web projects. Building trust and credibility with these sorts of business-people can only be a good thing. If speaking up at events like Digital Exeter and promoting our proven techniques builds this trust then it’s worth it, even if our competitors get an insight into our behind-the-scenes systems.
We should be secure enough in what we deliver to trust that our partners and customers will see us as skilled technologists and leaders in our field.
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