There are a variety of benefits to forming a positive, reciprocal relationship with your competition. Before you go down this road, make sure you are ready to share information just as much as you ask for it. Information should flow both ways, and if you are unwilling to share and be friendly, don’t expect others to.
Creating a relationship with other programs in your area can help to improve the industry as a whole. Sharing industry preferred practices helps create better programs and better, safer, experiences for guests. Learn from one another and don’t be afraid to share your screw-ups, because your new friend at the park down the road might just be able to offer a solution.
There are many ways to establish relationships with the folks at other programs in your area, and beyond. One of them is to attend a national conference like ACCT. This is a great place to network and connect in a casual environment, and can lead to productive relationships in the future.
And while face-to-face interaction is best, social media makes networking easy. On Facebook, groups like Challenge Course Pros and Zip Tour Pros are both great ways to connect and share ideas with industry counterparts.
An effort that I helped undertake to form bonds with my fellow operators was to establish the Ohio Zip Line Association, which is a trade group consisting of operators in our state. When trying to form a state or regional association, you will likely encounter people who are in full support and others who aren’t. That’s ok. I would encourage you to invite everyone, and even detractors who show up may learn a thing or two and become supporters.
Our association was formed to help operators share preferred practices, and to unite as a collective voice should our state want to create legislation for our industry. The group actually helped present legislation to the state’s Department of Agriculture and for the last four years we’ve worked with them to refine that legislation. The relationships we all have as competitors are now stronger as a result of forming this group.
Government issues aside, the group also acts as a sounding board. We have had discussions on things like annual inspections, amount of insurance coverage, weight limits on the course, types of gear used, etc.
Another benefit to having strong relationships with your competition is for advanced staff training. When managers attend a training course, oftentimes it is held at a far away location and you have to pay for the travel expenses. When you’re friendly with the competition you can organize training with everyone’s staff at a nearby location, and bring in a trainer, saving time and money. We recently did this with a Petzl PPE course that ended up saving everyone some money in the long run.
These are just a few examples of why developing a positive relationship with the folks you compete with is beneficial. We all want to be successful, and believe it or not, your competitors just might be the people who help you achieve your goals.