How do we take a naturally competitive market and create a culture packed full of collaboration? Can the two coexist?
As leaders or employees, we need to intentionally seek to understand how to apply both concepts at various points of business so that we all can be a success.
The law of supply and demand is a core principle behind any business interaction. It is simple. When supply is low, buyers compete. When demand is low, suppliers compete. The housing market is a common example. Suppose 100 homes are for sale, but 200 families are looking for a home. The 200 families looking to purchase are competing for a low supply of homes.
When home owners see a neighbor selling a house at a fantastic price, they too list their home to maximize the sale price. At some point, 400 homes become available for sale, but only 300 families are looking to purchase. There are more homes available than buyers. Sellers will have to compete more to attract a buyer in an overly saturated buyers’ market.
This dynamic is why competition will never go away in a free market. Competition is why we are in business and why we have employment.
If competition is essential to business, why are social media platforms, politics, corporations, even families talking about collaboration these days? Why do we care so much about collaborating?
Collaboration speaks to a win-win mindset. Competition can be very one sided: I win, you lose. It’s me versus you.
I am naturally competitive and self-centered. I bet you are, too. If we were both starving and there was only one piece of bread left in the world, we would both naturally want to eat that piece of bread before the other person. It’s about survival instincts (Another law of supply and demand).
People who work in collaboration see the problem and work towards a mutually beneficial solution. They say things like: what are the win-win options? Maybe the bread isn’t the only food source. Maybe we just need to make more bread. Maybe we could work together on this problem to find a solution so that both of us survive. Community is stronger when there is a culture of collaboration.
Let’s Discuss a Real Business Problem
It’s no secret that today’s pool of trade workers is inadequate. Speak with any owner of a trade business and they will tell you that their biggest problem is lack of human resources. The abundance of work is high (demand), but the people to do the work is low (supply). Hence the problem. How do I stay in business if my supply is short? To keep my supply of workers, I need to pay higher wages.
Every trade business faces this today, and we are all in natural competition for workers to keep our businesses thriving. This problem is good for workers; it raises wage rates, places a higher value on trade jobs, and eventually more workers will join the field. The real question is, which companies will survive until that point of equilibrium?
Early on in this venture, I had the pleasure of becoming friends with someone who understands this problem and does something about it. Laura Bachman is a fantastic collaborator but also works for our competitor, Sparks Electric. She knows how to coexist in both competition and collaboration.
Laura has dedicated an incredible amount of time in the evenings and weekends developing an apprenticeship program that I believe raises the best electricians in the nation. How do I know? The program she leads trains our apprentices. I see the results first hand. Our customers give raving reviews about the apprentices her team trains. Instead of limiting her training skills to the Sparks’ team, she has collaborated with other competitors, inspectors, apprenticeship programs and recruiting teams to make sure that the program grows and provides the best education for students for the industry.
Recently, Laura asked me to join the Board for MECA. What an honor! There are a group of leaders in Dayton, Ohio who care about the future of our students and she asked me to be a part of it. We at E2 Companies are very excited about the future of the program Laura is leading.
Thank you: Laura, teachers, inspectors, other business owners like Sparks and students, for dedicating your time and resources to the future!
In your business, what is a real-world problem that requires a solution? How can you collaborate with your competition to solve that problem?
If you have not yet met Laura, but would like to learn more about The Master Electrical Contractors Association in Dayton, OH, please go to http://www.iec-dayton-meca.com/ for more info.