Sleeping With The Enemy

Originally published August 15, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press

We’ve been using the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis since middle school. Most of our pre-programmed brains will our competition as a “threat” in this exercise. Though it is true; competition can be a major threat to any business, is it (competition) the real enemy?

Lack of originality, poor quality/service, and resistance to change are considerably more dangerous. Competitors merely take advantage of these chinks in our armor and penetrate the weakness.  

If you find yourself worried about your competition, how might you take ownership of the reasons behind the concern? Why are you afraid? What if instead of considering our competitors a threat, we instead found a way to make them a strength?

“The rising tide raises all ships.” It really does.  

How might we work together in bettering our overall industries and together create an elevated marketplace for our customer?

1.  “Sleep with the enemy.” I once heard about a CEO group who met frequently in Seattle. They acted as advisers to one another and aided in solving some of the greatest issues encountered in each of their respective businesses. It was said that this group became so trusting of one another they even sought council on issues they were facing at home. A group like this has changing power for an entire industry.

Start small by inviting someone you consider a competitor to coffee or lunch. Be vulnerable and real. You never know where it may lead.

 2.  Mentor. If you see a new business starting up in your industry, or notice one struggling, why not offer your expertise? Try approaching the owner with humility and ask how you can help. People don’t forget kindness. If you still can’t wrap your mind around that, think of it this way instead: Don’t you want your industry as a whole to be better? Do we not become better by others challenging us? Who is driving you to be better, reach farther, and forcing you to innovate outside of your comfort zone?

 3.  Be so good they can’t ignore you. Invite your competitors to the table and collaborate. This doesn’t mean exchanging trade secrets and financials. It simply means there is enough for all of us and each of us has our “thing”. Before long, your new friends will become great referral partners when they come across a customer looking for the one “thing” you do better than anyone else.

Why do we travel to regional conferences for networking with people in our industry, but find ourselves so reluctant doing the same thing in our own backyard? There are brilliant and generous people in Montrose. There is no sense in holding everything so tightly to our chest: Iron sharpens iron.

I know two gym owners in town. They could feel threatened by one another and have ugly battles for clients. Instead, they lift one another up. They train together. They make one another better. As a member, I get the warm-fuzzies knowing I am part of a fitness community led by confident, giving individuals.

There are nearly 20,000 people living within the City limits of Montrose. What would happen if all 20,000 of them showed up at your front door? Unless you’re DMEA, you would inevitably fail in delivering a quality product or service at that scale. You need others in your sandbox to keep it sustainable. They aren’t competitors, rather important cogs in the industry ecosystem.

Open your doors. Sit down with someone. And become better together. 

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of business innovation for the City of Montrose. She can be reached at