Tuesday 31 January 2023
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A surprising boost from “coopetition”

[Beth Bridges, a regular contributor to intrepidNOW, writes about how to break through personal barriers with regards to both individual and business goals…]

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“If you’re not growing, you need stronger competitors.”

Tweet: “If you’re not growing, you need stronger competitors.”
~ Beth Bridges, The Networking Motivator

This Saturday was the last race in the Valley Runner of the Year Series. The final placements for my category were already set, it didn’t matter who got points or not, so I decided to try a potentially risky strategy to get a personal best time for the distance.

The woman I consider my biggest competitor in the points race and in my age-grouping is significantly faster than I am. I still measure my efforts against hers because I know I won’t make much progress by competing against someone only slightly faster. I’ve learned in that last year that as long as I don’t get discouraged, constantly testing myself against faster runners or better competitors will give me huge gains. It’s the “Outclass Yourself” part of my “massive gains” strategy I wrote about earlier this year.

My plan for this race was to stalk her for as long as I could. I would pace her until I couldn’t keep up any more and then I would run, jog, walk, crawl, or whatever it took to get to the finish line. I figured the experience of running with the “big girls” would be fun and that the early pace would make up for the inevitable slow down. Unless she went out at a blistering pace and I completely failed to finish. But hey, once in a while, you’ve got to try the “checkers or wreckers” strategy.

Being the cagey, sneaky competitor that I am, I saw her during my warm up and told her all about my strategy. Disclaimer: this isn’t some bitter rivalry. She was a professional acquaintance over the last few years and just started running this year after learning about the Runner of the Year competition from me last year.

In telling her my plan, I trusted that she wasn’t going to blast me or try to mess with me. She seemed to like the idea, in fact, and promised to see me at the starting line. In the meantime, she went to see her significant other – and coach – finish his race and I went to warm up.

As we met back at the starting line, she said, “I told my coach your strategy and he said, ‘Here’s the new plan. You run with her, at her goal pace and bring her to a PR today.’”

Wait, what? SHE was going to pace ME? It was a golden opportunity for me and a wonderful offer from her. Was I on board? Oh yes, I was.

If there was ever a question in my mind about the value of keeping a friendly or at the very least respectful relationship with the “competition” whether in life or business, this would have ended any doubt for me.

Haven’t you had an unexpected call from a competitor, asking you to collaborate? Or gotten a referral from a competitor for someone that wasn’t quite a good fit for them, but they were for you? Or participated in industry events like trade shows, industry panels, and associations where you learned and shared information with your competitors?

It’s called “coopetition” or sometimes “co-opertition.” The word and the concept has been coined, lost, and recoined over the last hundred years. I have to admit the first time I heard it used was by Darrell Waltrip describing the drafting that is necessary at Daytona and Talledega Speedways for cars to get up to speed and make passes. The ultimate goal in NASCAR of course, is for these drivers to win. But along the way, the racing is faster, better, and more exciting. The stronger the competition, the better everyone does.

Again, it’s risky. If your competition is much stronger, it could get discouraging to always continually lag behind. On the other hand, you could measure your success by how much you close the gap. By how much you improve yourself, measured against their performance. By how much stronger you get by constantly wresting with someone tougher, bigger, and better.

Did it work for me? Oh yes. I crossed the finish line a full 30 seconds faster than my previous best time. It’s a personal best … until the next time!


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Beth Bridges is the Networking Motivator (tm) and author of "Networking on Purpose: A Five-Part Success Plan to Build a Powerful and Profitable Business Network." She attended over 2,500 networking events in 10 years which lead to the development of the Five Part Networking Success Plan (tm). Beth is an avid runner and cyclist and recently ditched a twenty-year-long fear of water so she could become a triathlete.