Business tip: Turn your competitor into a collaborator

A story yesterday about a new business arrangement between Deutsche Post's DHL and United Parcel Service reminded me why I love owning my own business. I can make my own decisions and do things that others might not like to do... like collaborate with competitors.

Basically, DHL has been trying to compete with UPS, offering to deliver your packages anywhere in the world. The problem is that DHL doesn't have as big a network as UPS, so it was very expensive to get packages to certain places.

The solution: Work out a deal to have UPS transport certain DHL packages. It's a win-win in my eyes. UPS increases annual revenue by an estimated $1 billion. And DHL keeps its promise to customers at a much lower cost than if it tried to transport all packages themselves.
I've done something similar in my own business. I don't have any employees due to a business choice I made several years ago. But occasionally there is a project that needs additional hands and eyes. I've made arrangements with other accounting firms to collaborate on those projects. We both generate more revenue and gain experience with another client and another industry. How can we lose?

So today's tip, no matter what industry in which you do business, is to find ways to collaborate with competitors. Of course, you don't want to give them access to secret information or an opportunity to steal an important client. Collaborate only when it's in both of your interests to do so. You might be surprised at how well it works out.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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