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Coopetition – But Don’t Give Away the Farm
Many of you know that prior to devoting my career to patient empowerment and patient advocacy, I owned a marketing company that worked specifically with professionals and small businesses. I had clients of every flavor, from manufacturing companies to hair salons, from lawyers to book authors, to cookie-bakers and small distribution companies – a gamut. An important part of my work was mentoring – helping others who wanted to be in business grasp the basic concepts that were necessary, helping them apply those concepts to their own fields, then jump in with both feet. I truly enjoyed the many “a-ha” moments my mentoring created. I heard one day from one of my mentees (I’ll call her Carla), a hairdresser. Her shop had been open for about two years, was doing well, was very popular, and she was just getting ready to sink some big money into expanding it. More space, new services, high-end products, additional personnel and more. Gangbusters. About six months before that call, a young woman, Laura, had contacted her, asking to interview Carla about owning a shop. Carla invited her to stop by and the two chatted for about an hour. She had enjoyed the experience and felt they had a lot in common. But now Carla was beside herself. So upset! She learned that Laura had just opened a new shop only a quarter mile down the road. Carla’s friends reported that Laura was offering all those new services Carla was getting ready to offer, that those high-end products Carla would soon begin offering were already for sale in the new shop, and that a couple of the new service people Carla was planning to bring in to her expanded shop were already working for Laura. Carla felt as if Laura had stolen all her good ideas, the very plans she was just getting ready to turn into reality. She felt it was unfair, needed to be addressed, and asked me (as her mentor) what she should do about it. My answer stunned her and upset her. The answer was, to contact Laura and congratulate her…