It has been nine years since six of us launched an organization for Technology and Innovation which would evolve to become WEtech Alliance. It was a collaborative effort, including competitors, working together to build the foundation for this organization.
How did it work sitting on a Board with your competition? Well, at first we actually did not really know each other, however, we did know of each other. As professionals, you quickly learned to respect your competition and avoided going into specific details about your business.
We also joined a CEO peer group which was a bit more challenging sitting next to a competitor. This group, hosted by Deloitte, provided an open forum to discuss specific challenges in business. As we developed our relationships within both WEtech and the peer group, we found we would open up more and no longer be guarded. We had a mutual understanding not to take advantage of what was shared and not to use it against each other.
As the years went by, we found there was a relationship developing. Many who observed us commented on how it was unique to see competitors working so well together. My thoughts on this have always been to collaborate with everyone to achieve the bigger picture. This benefits everyone and the results impacted a lot of people in a very positive way.
Do we call each other and head out for lunch discussions? Not quite. We do have some good discussions when we are together, comparing notes and sharing some best practices. Of course there are some things we prefer not to divulge and that is respected by the others.
Recently, Windsor Business ran a cover story on a competitor and the reporter contacted me for a quote. Wearing both my WEtech and AlphaKOR hats, I made some positive comments. I was pleased with what was quoted at the end of the article: "I think whenever we see a local company growing and making acquisitions and increasing their geographic reach, it's a positive impact on everybody."