Today’s question comes from Dave.
What I’d like to know is if there are special ideas or techniques for when you are at an event that is mostly populated with your competitors, like an industry conference or a local meeting of an industry group of some kind. […] If I go to my local IT group, I’m going to be surrounded by other computer guys. How do I network with them if they’re competing with what I do?
First, pick up a copy of The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret and read the chapter about Hub Firms. No matter what your field, there will be certain areas that are not your strength. Your competitors give you an opportunity to collaborate and serve the client much more effectively. Create relationships with people whose strengths are different from yours.
Next, watch this video for an amazing story about an insurance agent who was violently opposed to working with other insurance agents, and how he collaborated with a competitor to make a mint.
Brought to you by Networking Now.
Complete Transcript of Episode 466 –
This is part of our Ask Ivan series. If you have a question for Ivan, email him at this address: [email protected]
Hello everyone and welcome back to the Official BNI Podcast, brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and the Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan. How are you and where are you?
Hi Priscilla. I am doing great, and I am in North Carolina. We had moved our corporate headquarters to Charlotte, North Carolina. I am doing meetings with our global support team, so we have people from all over the world coming to North Carolina. We are meeting and helping to plan the future of the organization.
That is great. So much fun when people come from all over the world.
It really is.
Tell us what you have set out here about networking with competitors.
I got a question from Dave. Dave says, “There have been several podcasts about how to handle networking events- chambers, mixers, etc. What I would like to know is if there are some special ideas or techniques for when you are at an event that is mostly populated with your competitors, like an industry conference or a local meeting of an industry group of some kind.” He goes on to say, “Here is what I mean: I am a computer guy, so if I go to a chamber mixer, there will probably be other computer guys there but also plenty of other professions so there are lots of opportunities to make noncompetitive connections. However, if I go to my local IT group, I am going to be surrounded by a lot of computer guys. How do I network with them if they are competing with what I do?”
Dave, this is a great question. I am really glad you asked and I am going to give you a very specific answer with a few different suggestions.
One is if you get a chance, pick up a copy of my book, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret. I will make sure there is a link here on this podcast because in there, I talk about this very thing. There are different editions of the book, but in the fourth edition, it is a chapter called, “Making Your Company a Hub Firm.”
A hub firm is a key business in a constellation of codependent businesses tethered to one another to make the most effective use of their organizational strengths. They are oftentimes seemingly competitive kinds of businesses. Now, I will also include a graphic in this podcast so you can see a graphic of what I mean by a hub firm.
I came up with idea because, Dave, when I was a management consultant, I would go to industry groups just like you are going, and I would go to other networking groups and there would be competitors- business consultants, which today would be high end coaches working with large companies. You know, for a long time, I didn’t know what to do because they were competitors.
Then it struck me that whenever there is an opportunity to collaborate, I should jump on that opportunity. I started thinking about how there were certain areas that were not my strength as a business consultant. My strengths were strategic planning, behavior profiles, HR (human resources), but I didn’t have a lot of specialization in finance, technology, direct sales- word of mouth marketing, yes but traditional sales and marketing were not really my areas of expertise.
It struck me that if I could create a relationship with some competitors, people who were also consultants or sometimes today would be called coaches – because this is 30 years ago when I did this. If I could create a relationship with these people and work with them, try them out once to make sure they didn’t steal a client from me, sign an agreement with them stating this is my client and they will work with me if they want to do something with this client.
Virtually 100% of the people that I went to to ask if they would like to work on a project with me with one of my clients said yes. They signed a noncompete with that client, so I didn’t have to worry about them taking the client. I ended up being able to take care of the client so much more effectively because I found people who had areas of specialization that were not my areas of specialization. In effect, I became the general contractor of subcontractors.
Does that make sense?
That worked really, really well for me. So my recommendation is whatever business you are in- Dave, you are in computers- you probably have an area that you just rock it with and you are really strong. There might be a couple areas where you are not that strong. Create some relationships with some people that you can trust and then be the hub of the hub firm and work with companies that have those specializations.
I am also going to include, Priscilla, a link in this podcast with a video that is about five minutes long. Dave, you have got to watch this video. If you are listening to this podcast, you have got to watch this video because there is an amazing story that I tell about an insurance agent who absolutely was completely opposed to ever working with another insurance agent on a project. He was a zealot about that. Just a whole series of events took place that had him sort of stumble into working with somebody and he ended up making a mint because he ended up collaborating with what, theoretically, would have been a competitor. But they collaborated. It is a great story. You have to listen to it.
So, Dave, I hope this answers your question and helps you. For anyone listening to this podcast, I would love if you have a story about collaborating with someone who at first glance would be a competitor. I would love for you to share your story here on BNI podcast.com.
What do you think, Priscilla? Any thoughts?
The only thought I have is to add the concept of geographic distribution. Like where I live, you have to cross a bridge to work in San Francisco, so someone who is working over there would be a perfect referral for me.
Alright. So you would refer someone in a different area.
I think that is a great suggestion, especially if you can do something that is reciprocal and you have an agreement that you will refer people that are over an hour or two hours away and they will refer people to you. As long as you have that kind of reciprocal relationship, I think that is a great idea and good suggestion. That is it for today, Priscilla.
Excellent. Thank you so much, Ivan. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of the Official BNI Podcast.