Skills, Artistry, and Competition


I share almost everything I know concerning successful website and business operations. I even share that knowledge with my competition when they ask. I sometimes volunteer to share trade secrets with my competition. I often publish articles or instructional pages with specialized instruction which most people in our situation would not share without charging for it.

We not only sell website services, we also sell webmaster training instruction. So why in the world would I GIVE away what I’m selling? Wouldn’t that undermine my profits and train my competition for free?

That has to be one of the biggest myths of paranoia in the business world. It is perpetuated by people of limited imagination, who think that the only way to do business is the same way everyone else is doing business. When you are competing with a gazillion other businesses and have not truly differentiated your business with a good dose of the best elements in your personality, and when you have failed to truly connect with your customers or clients, then yeah, it is a bad idea to be too free with your competition.

But when you are not just one of the numbers, but something unique, and when your business is as much YOU as it is standards of excellence, and ESPECIALLY when you’ve diverged from the other lemmings in your particular professional arena to develop NEW and BETTER standards, or more effective policies and procedures that give you an edge and make your clients feel the difference, then you can share your expertise freely, and you’ll have little to fear from your competition.

Why is that?

Skills are just skills. If you learned them, then anyone else can. There is no issue of competition there. If you don’t kindly help someone when they ask, and they are trying to learn the same skills you already learned, then they’ll just go learn them somewhere else anyway. So there is no real profit or benefit in NOT sharing them.

There IS a benefit in sharing them. You establish yourself as THE go-to expert. Many of those you help will soon be approaching you with subcontracting proposals, or referring clients or customers to you when they cannot meet their needs themselves. Plus you get a reputation as a REALLY NICE, and HIGHLY QUALIFIED person. Yes, your competition will in fact help you gain that reputation, and to uphold it. They will quote YOU instead of other experts in the industry.

So no need to be paranoid about sharing skills. Be nice, and helpful, and it will help you more than it harms you.

Beyond skills, a wildly successful business also requires something totally unique and beyond the norm. For us, it was development of a totally new and separate standard for small businesses, as differentiated from corporate businesses, because the website needs were totally different, but this was almost never acknowledged by web professionals as a group, and when they did, they merely scaled down the same old corporate standards, which in fact, did NOT scale down effectively. This is the thing that makes you a BETTER option than your competition.

So, with the first thing, that unique thing that you developed and created, those individual methods for operations that separate your success potentials from your competition. The stuff of which trade secrets are made. The same question arises as for skills. Won’t sharing them hurt you and get you more competition?

Not really. In fact, the same thing is true. YOU are the one who developed it. That makes you the undisputed expert. You’ll get MORE people who will cooperate with you, make referrals, and improve your reputation than you will those people who would cause harm to your business by what you share.

Everyone thinks that sharing that kind of information will backfire and someone will steal their concept and set themselves up in direct competition, claim the fame for it, and sink the originator of the idea.

That is actually EXTREMELY rare. Pretty much the ONLY time it happens is when someone has a good IDEA, but no ability to actually do anything with it! If you are already successful based on some unique changes you’ve made to your business, then you are not in that category.

In our years in business, there have been people who tried to immitate us, or even to steal our systems and pass them off as their own. So why am I still recommending sharing openly?

Because the people who are the type to try to steal something rather than build their own, invariably lack the self-discipline and determination to actually turn what they stole into anything effective. They think they can steal it, slap up a quickie website (they’ll NEVER take the time to build a good one), and that the money will pour in without any effort on their part. They are completely blind to the fact that even if you have a great product or service, it takes a LOT of work, patience, repetition of boring tasks, and time, to actually earn anything from it. They make a hasty slapdash effort, and never even climb out of complete obscurity. No one else EVER knows that they have what they stole, because the very characteristics that caused them to steal it will ensure that they never make a profit from it.

You might also feel that putting it out there in print will just mean that other people can read all about it and never have to pay you for it, especially if you are selling training on the topic. Again, there is no need to fear that it will decrease your profits, quite the contrary.

A body of toothsome information validates your expertise. It helps people realize that you know things they don’t, and that they CAN’T find elsewhere. If you hide all the really juicy bits, then they have no reason to feel that you know anything that every other of your competitors does not know.

When you write about just a bit more – and actually start sharing those secrets, then people really understand the depth of your expertise and how different you are from all the rest. Oh, a few will read that, and feel it is all they need. But the hungry ones – the ones you REALLY want as students, they’ll want it straight from the teacher. They’ll realize that they can learn it much better from an organized training program than they can from digging through a website to get it bit by bit, or having to assemble it and sift the quality from multiple websites. It will increase your client base, not decrease it. And it will increase your reputation, not undermine it.

So, again, you really have nothing to lose, and a great deal to gain, by freely sharing information, including your own specialized knowledge, even in referenceable ways.

The last element that makes your business successful is your personality, or your artistry. This is the part that no one else CAN immitate. It is all you, and comes from something within you that you cannot teach to anyone else, nor can they successfully copy it. They’ll inject their own personality into it, and even if they INTEND to become “you”, they’ll persist in being themselves, and they’ll appeal to a completely different clientele than you do. So no need to fear that – you are each an artist, with your own style, and customers like what they like, and having more or less competition isn’t going to make some personality types want to work with YOU any more or less. It is beneficial to have good associates to refer problem clients to – a client who just cannot work well with your style may do well with the style of one of your competitors, and by referring out, you get out of potentially difficult situations and still come out looking good.

Now, I’m not recommending that you give away your product, or that you give away, for example, your website content or other intellectual or material assets. THOSE, they have to get on their own. I would not give away my templates, systems, site structures, custom software, or other items that I typically charge for. I don’t print my curriculum online. But I share most of the secrets in it, here a little, there a little. That sharing goes on working for me night and day, convincing people to invest in our expertise.

There is no need to be paranoid of your competition. Make friends of them instead, cooperate with them, and build a professional network that benefits all of you. There is far more to gain by being open and helpful than there is to lose.

This is true of your customers as well – be willing to educate them into being informed customers so they know how to make good choices. If they are do it yourselfers, be helpful, and answer short questions (there comes a point where you can’t answer time consuming ones, but up to that point, be helpful and generous). You don’t have to give away any hands-on work – but answer emails kindly and generously. It pretty much always comes back to your benefit.

I’ve answered questions for total strangers countless times. Some I never hear from again. Others come to me later for services when their circumstances change – sometimes they come to me many years later. They remember me because I helped them when no one else would. Often, it comes back to me by way of a referral. Someone calls, again, often many years later, and says that they were referred by someone I helped, who could not say enough good about me. They validate my expertise, my integrity, and assure the prospect that I won’t charge them unreasonably.

You can’t buy that kind of advertising.

Once you rid yourself of the resentment of your competition, and open up to cooperation, you start an amazing synergy that helps all of you be just a bit better than you could be on your own.

And there isn’t ANY reason to be paranoid about THAT!

Our company is now offering Cottage Industry Consulting, to help businesses identify and encourage artistry in their own business.

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