Is Competition Dying?

Delicious print design by  Sarah Papworth

Delicious print design by Sarah Papworth

One of my latest projects was consulting with the wonderful women of HB Collaborative to establish their new brand. Their motto is 'Collaboration is the New Competition', and as this is a philosophy I've been thinking about and believed for a while now, I wanted to take this time to chat about that idea. 

The city I live in is one that's currently striving to pull in new businesses. From my vantage point as a student, and then as a budding professional, I've noticed that the influences of the three colleges here create a unique blend of old and new business practices. Sometimes the blend, and sometimes they clash, and I think one of the biggest differences is the trend of collaboration instead of competition.

I see this mainly in the creative world (here's another great article about competition from an actor's perspective). Take HB Collaborative, for example. Kristen is a designer, and Anne an event planner. They could beat themselves backwards to master each other's skills and 'provide it all' for their clients. Instead they team up, maintain their autonomy and focus on specializing in their specific interests. As a graphic designer, I'm often asked if I offer more services like video or illustration (my weak spot), but I'd much rather help out a videographer friend who's truly skilled than figure out a solution on my own. And hopefully down the road that videographer friend will send some logo work my way. If I have a client whose taste or style is radically different from my own, I'd rather send them to a designer who more naturally relates to them than attempt it myself. That designer's friendship is worth more to me! 

I believe this collaborative utopia can work. Mebane, North Carolina is one of my favorite small towns in this country. Main street is comprised of four or five antique stores and several clothing and furniture boutiques. Sounds like a flooded market, but by embracing each other with open arms they've transformed their flooded market into a hotspot community for antique shopping. If you ask one shopkeeper if she has red boots, without hesitation she'll take you three doors down where her competition just got a pair in if she thinks they'll look better on you.

It's scary to be vulnerable enough to ask for help, or to tell a client you can't accept a job. It's scary to turn away money. I hope, though, that we can create abundance through community and discover that there really is room at the top for everyone.