Is 'co-opertition' part of your business future?

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Is 'co-opertition' part of your business future?

Australian small businesses see advantages in co-operating with competitors, according to a new survey.

Research conducted by Galaxy Research for video collaboration vendor Blue Jeans Network has found that small businesses are most likely to see collaboration with external partners as a way of improving access to new markets and customers, 14 percent think the biggest benefit would come from working with their competitors to drive industry progress.

The idea behind co-opertition is that a number of businesses can co-operate on some activities while still competing for sales. For example, a single small company might struggle to gain meetings with the right people in a potential new export market, but it is possible that offering those same people the chance to meet five or ten new suppliers at once would get a better reception.

According to futurist Mark Pesce, the benefits from collaborating with competitors include expanding core competencies and solidifying strengths, learning from each other, expanding the market for both parties, benchmarking against a real peer, and sharing common technology.

"Innovation and collaboration go hand in hand and it's encouraging to see some Australian businesses taking the need to innovate seriously," he said. "While it may seem counterintuitive for competitors to work together, at a smaller scale establishing the industry and customer base is priority and these businesses are smart to consider doing so."

The trick is to make sure that the 'co-operation' part doesn't swamp the 'competition'. The ACCC rightly takes a dim view of anti-competitive activity such as cartels and (with important exceptions) collective bargaining.

According to the research, the factors actually holding back external collaboration are that it is seen as being too logistically difficult and time consuming (42 percent) and problems in finding the right partner (42 percent).

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