Profit through Coopetition


When the internet made its first inroads into the business psyche in the mid 1990’s, I was Director of a boutique advertising and graphic design company focussing on publishing magazines and other paper based media. It was apparent that the internet was not a passing fad and as such we decided to focus our business growth towards online publishing by offering our clients domain name registration and web hosting services. These two services quickly became our core business. Due to client demand we also offered several complementary services including graphic design, web design and development services, including e-commerce programming, IT training, networking and IT helpdesk services.

In early 1996 I was invited to deliver a keynote speech at my local chamber of commerce on how business could harness the power of the internet and email to reduce costs and find new customers. During open networking at the end of event I was approached by a lady who introduced herself as the Director of a company I knew as one of our main local competitors. After chatting for half an hour it was apparent that whilst they offered all the same services as us, they specialised in e-commerce programming but due to client demand they also offered domain registration and web hosting as complementary services to their clients.

She promptly invited me along to her BNI chapter which also had members in the fields of graphic design, web design and development, IT training, networking and IT helpdesk services. After being accepted as a member I quickly started to build relationships with all the members of my new “IT power team”. By focussing on our specialism we were now receiving domain registration and web hosting referrals from 5 new referral partners and in return we were happy to refer business to them in each of their specialist fields. We all obtained increased levels of business as a result and by working together to fulfil our clients requirements we reduced our overheads and increased our profits.

What I had engaged in was something called coopetition the basic principals of which received much attention in 1944 with the publication of the book “Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour” by John Forbes Nash. Coopetition occurs when several companies in the same market pool their resources and cooperate with each other to create a higher value than could be achieved if they acted alone. The result can often be higher quality products and services, reduced development costs and a shorter time to market than could be achieved if the companies involved had acted individually.

Occasionally, I get the opportunity to visit networking events where some members holding key categories run “full service” companies. Normally, these chapters are of average or below average size (between 15 and 25 members) and the reason they find it difficult to grow is because these key members do not have an abundance mentality and are not open to the philosophy of coopetition. As a direct result all members of the group are denied the opportunity to network as part of a larger group, and given that a members earnings increase exponentially as a direct result of the number of members and relationships in the room (Metcalf’s law), the earning potential of all members suffers as a result.

I recently visited a chapter in Brisbane that currently has 44 members and growing. Over the last 18 months they have embraced the coopetition philosophy and the result is annual closed business in excess of $4 million. As the members delivered their sales manager minutes I noted that they had four finance brokers (residential mortgage, commercial mortgage, vehicle finance and equipment finance), two interior designers (commercial and residential) and two photographers (video and wedding). Even though these companies could deliver similar services they had decided to cooperate for the greater good, they had embraced the abundance mentality and were happily developing highly profitable relationships not only with each other but also with other members of the chapter.

In BNI today, the objective is to develop New Generation Chapters, those that create $1 million in closed business in their first year. This can only be achieved if all members have the abundance mentality and are committed to coopetition.

paul_portraitThis article was provided by Paul Lomas who is the executive Director of BNI ACT & NSW Tablelands, BNI Brisbane CBD and BNI Brisbane South. Paul joined BNI in 1996 and believes in the power of teamwork, listening and accepting responsibility.


  1. I love the abundance mindset. Zig Ziglar was a big believer and promoted this approach in all facets of life. “You will get everything you want in life if you can just help enough other people get what they want”.

    Another mentor of mine taught me to never chase a deal, never appear desperate or that you must close this deal as your desperation will show through. He encouraged us to believe that the next deal was around the corner and that there is an abundance of work out there for everybody to be apart of.

    He would also mention that we do not have competitors in the work place, simply fellow business owners that provide the same service and skills that you do. If you truly have an abundant mindset, then you never have competition, as there is plenty of work to go around.

    I think this is a great post and fully support the abundant mindset in everything we do.

    We can all be successful if we all look to help each other.

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