I’m about to share with you some of the most surprising business advice I’ve received in the past several weeks. (I still have trouble believing it myself.)

You should support your competitors.

I know: How does it possibly make sense to help someone else win the game you’re competing in? But several brilliant business women I’ve looked up to for years have told me this is true—that it will only help you in the long run to help others.

And I can assure you, based on the recent developments of my own business, that it does in fact pay off to give your so-called competitors a boost. Read on for some of the reasons working with—rather than against—your competitors is a good idea.

It Helps Build Your Industry

In order for you and your business to succeed, you need your industry as a whole to succeed, too. By supporting your competitors, you are growing the environment in which you both need to thrive, attracting more potential customers, and in turn creating more opportunities for the both of you.

For example, I’ve partnered with other sites with a similar mission to my own, like SheNOW.org. I’ve been a guest host on the site’s weekly Twitter chats, and I often share SheNOW news updates on my social media pages. I do this because the more awareness we bring to the topic we cover, the more readers we get, and the more room we each have to grow. (Plus, SheNOW just plain rocks.)

It Helps Both of Your Bottom Lines

By growing the industry, this creates more space for each of you to grow and carve out your niches. This helps both of you because, most of the time, you begin to complement one another, allowing for cross-promotions and referrals.

For example, one of ProfessionGal.com’s sponsors is MyPrettyOffice, which sells stylish office supplies. I’m looking to launch an online store selling cute office supplies, too, but the age and style to which our companies respectively cater are different. Thus, we have the opportunity to refer to one another if our products aren’t a fit for a particular customer.

Even if you have a direct competitor that is very similar to the products or services you provide, chances are the volume or demand will need to be shared at some point—and in being on good terms, that “rival company” may send those clients to you.

It Motivates You to Be the Best You Can Be

A little competition is healthy. Without others challenging us, we might never feel the burning urge to push ourselves, prove others wrong, and strive for that which was once unthinkable.

If you want to be the best at what you do, it’s good to use competitors as a benchmark by which to measure strengths and weaknesses. And by knowing and working with those competitors, you’ll have a better idea of where they stand and what to measure. It’s not only a great way to track progress, but it’s also the best feeling to know that if you do “win,” you are competing against the absolute best.

It Helps Break Your Fall When You Need It

We’ve all seen screw-ups by some of the biggest brands out there. And, even in cutthroat industries like airlines and restaurants, rarely do you see competitors talk badly about a brand going through crisis. That’s because they know it could happen to them, too—and if that day comes, they wouldn’t want that competitor to kick them when they’re down.

You never know when a slip-up will happen to you and your business—and if you’ll then need the help of a competitor to soften the blow (or at least to not make it worse). Playing nice in the small business sandbox, especially in times of your competitors’ need or crisis, will only help you in the long run.

In short, the old, tired saying marches on: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I truly understand what this means for business now.

No, I’m not saying you should allow yourself to go bankrupt in favor of helping your peers reach their goals—what I mean is that it only takes a few small gestures to create a longstanding partnership, or at least respect, between you and your competitors: Share their news updates on your social media pages, contact them personally to introduce yourself and encourage a line of communication, or come together in a formal partnership to support a mutual charity or host a co-branded event.

Those are just a few ideas to choose from, and there are plenty more. If you’d like to chat more on this subject (or any!), feel free to visit me at ProfessionGal.com or contact me at professiongal@gmail.com .

Photo of business owners meeting courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020