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!


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  1. January 16, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Well I can certainly relate!! A similar event happened to me when someone pursued me and picked my brian about independent nurser advocates, even offered to sub contract with me and share her office, before you know it she was offering exactly what I distinctly offered that no one else offered which was going to the ER at any time someone went to help with advocating for them from that point on. she advertises and uses much of my information I gave her and has never went through subcontracting with me or followed through with the office space. A lesson to be learned not to give it away. She has even taken my tag lines!!! Not very ethical but nothing I can do about it. I decided for my new years resolution I would just let it go and move on but I do admit it took the air out of my sails for a bit. I do wish her the best and know now that there is room for what we all offer.

  2. January 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Laura didn’t steal anything that Carla wasn’t willing to give up. So Carla has to bear the responsibility of that. Laura let Carla know that she was planning to open a shop. She was doing the smart thing by scouting her competition. Ethically, Laura didn’t do anything wrong.

    Morally, it might be a different story. Judging by the timing, Laura most likely knew she was going to open up a shop nearby and offered services in direct competition to Carla’s weaknesses. She didn’t lie – but she hid the truth.

    A mentor of mine said that he had 3 rules in business – “Don’t Lie, Don’t Cheat, Don’t Steal.”

    He also said, “If there’s no justice in this life, there’s justice in the next.”

    Carla is going to have to satisfy herself with that. And now meet the competition head on…

    – J.

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