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All companies are part of the greater economy, which includes your competitors, customers, suppliers and prospects. And many businesses look at the ecosystem as a zero-sum game where growth in their company will result in a decline in their competitors and vice versa. In reality that is rarely the case.
As the old saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats” and this rings true in the world of business. Improving industry wide quality standards and customer awareness will improve all companies competing in that industry ecosystem.
My sports-drink company Amara targets a fitness industry segment called CrossFit. One surprising observation is the key players in this industry collaborate rather than compete to ensure customers get the most out of their services.
For those of you who don’t know what CrossFit is, it is a strength and conditioning program that allows anyone -- from grandmas to cage fighters and Olympic athletes -- to succeed at their goals. Each CrossFit gym is owned by an individual business owner (not a franchisee) who has total control over the business. While they compete against each other in competitions, they collaborate when it comes to improving the industry ecosystem.
In a recent conversation I had with Nor Cal CrossFit owner Jason Khalipa, we discussed how industry collaboration has boosted both our industries.
Here are a few takeaways:
Educates the community. Many industries have conferences or publications that discuss challenges the individual companies face and offer potential solutions. Utilize these.
I recently attended the largest beverage industry conference of the year BevNet Live 2013. At the conference many of the new beverage companies (like Amara) were able to present their products and get direct feedback from industry veterans and juggernauts as large as Coca Cola. While these large corporations offered insight, we were able to reciprocate by educating the entire community about innovative packaging systems, ingredients and business strategies.
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CrossFit is no different with its annual trainer’s Affiliate Gathering summit. During the conference, Khalipa, a veteran in the industry, gives back to the community by providing advice to individual gym owners on how to develop their businesses more efficiently and avoid mistakes he made when growing his business.
Spurs innovation and increases awareness. Leading products pave the way for entire industry categories to grow. By educating your industry on what’s possible and keeping everyone focused on delivering excellence the entire ecosystem will benefit. Look at what the Prius did for hybrids or what the iPhone did for smart phones. At Amara, we are no different. We rebuilt the sports drink to make it what it should have always been -- healthy. Same with CrossFit. Utilizing a web-based approach, they have been able to use this strategy to create a word-of-mouth firestorm. This allows gym members, trainers and gym owners to all communicate in an open-forum discussion on all topics ranging from business to fitness training techniques. This open communication allows new gym members to continue to educate themselves and subsequently educate others -- bringing industry awareness of the CrossFit system to a new level.
Provides partnering opportunities and expands offering. As with many small businesses, Amara will be even more successful when we offer new flavors, electrolyte chews and other healthy fitness related foods and drinks. But to capitalize on this opportunity, we need to work with other industry folks to cross promote. By partnering with CrossFit, we are to supply them with healthy drinks, which deters members from going down the street and buying an unhealthy alternative. Plus, CrossFit owners receive additional revenue. It is a win-win situation.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Greg Connolly is the founder of the Berkeley, Calif.-based health-drink maker Amara Beverage Company. Amara is made with coffee berry, the red fruit that grows on coffee plants, found predominantly in natural-food stores like Whole Foods. The company makes a fruit-based sports drink designed for the rapidly growing fitness segment CrossFit.