In business, we can at times seclude ourselves in a little box and not let anyone in. This is especially common in competitive industries that don’t want other organizations to steal their ideas, designs, code, whatever it may be. But what happens when organizations network with their competitors? Or even more outrageous sounding, invest in their competitors?
Investing Money in the Competition
One of the most popular examples of peer investment (especially in the tech industry) is Microsoft and Apple. In 1997, Microsoft and Apple entered into an agreement. Apple agreed to make Internet Explorer the default web browser for 5 years, and Microsoft promised to support Microsoft Office on the Mac for 5 years and invested approximately $150 million for shares in non-voting preferred stock -at a time when Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. And at that time, when many within Apple were skeptical of the partnership, Steve Jobs said, “we have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.” Which is exactly the point. For you to succeed in your industry, your competitor doesn’t have to lose.
Another example of this is Daimler (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) investing in Tesla. In 2009, Daimler acquired an equity stake of nearly 10% in Tesla. This was mutually beneficial as Tesla needed the money, and Daimler wanted to use Tesla’s battery technologies in the first 1,000 units of the electric smart car they were releasing. Once again proving that more than one company within an industry can be at the top. And that helping someone else in your industry get to the top, won’t kill your business.
You may now be thinking, yeah that’s great, but why did they do this? Both Microsoft and Daimler had a decent chance of their competition dying out, why save them? Well, one is money. It was a gamble, sure, but in the end both companies profited off their investments. Also, in both examples, the company doing the investing believed in the product of the company being invested in. Additionally, it’s beneficial to have healthy competition, and others in your industry to learn from. Daimler didn't just throw money at Tesla and then walk away. They used the opportunity of the investment to gain knowledge of electric cars, and the development of the battery systems to benefit their advancement in the industry. These investments create partnerships and relationships between the companies, making for a more civil industry with peers, instead of rivals.
Investing Time with Industry Peers
So, what about peer-networking? Are you supposed to do that even when you aren’t job hunting? Why should you invest your time in that? According to a Forbes article on the topic, peer networks “can make us smarter, more engaged, and better connected.” It makes the individual better at his/her job, and it can make industry-wide improvements through consensus and discourse over many topics. Peer-networking can also influence large vendors that can’t notice or respond to every individual critique, but would certainly hear a mass-calling for change. You can also gain helpful insights from your peers, and a fresh perspective. These people are in your industry, but likely not at your same organization which means that they have fresh eyes for you to bounce (non-confidential) ideas off of.
In our industry (IT), the ball is constantly moving down the field, and it’s moving quick. IT demands us to be fast and agile, and if you aren’t, you’ll most certainly get left behind. But staying at the forefront of technology is hard, and if you are trying to go it alone, without a network of peers, good luck. That is why there are so many peer groups, symposiums, conventions, and more--and not just in IT, across every industry.
So, get out there and start peer networking. If you already are, encourage others to do so by suggesting an event for them to attend, or better yet, ask them to join you. You will not only personally benefit from it, but your company will as well. If you are the owner of a business and you see a company in your industry that you believe in-invest in them, you will reap the rewards of doing so. Not always financially, as sometimes businesses don’t make it, but if you believe in what they are doing and are intrigued enough to invest, there is certainly knowledge to be gained. Also, no one builds a business alone; it may feel that way at times, but you need others to succeed, and networking is the best way to do that.
If you have questions about networking in IT, reach out. We have IT experts that can show you the ropes. At DSM, Florida’s predictable cloud provider, we are always looking to make technology better for those that use it, which means networking with, and educating others in our industry.