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Joining Forces

Work with your competitors--not against them--and soon you'll be succeeding with the enemy.

This story appears in the December 1996 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As a supplier of printing, packaging and in-store displays, James A. Klein competes against every printer, box-maker and display-builder in and around Chicago. But he also buys products and services from 50 or so of these same firms. And if he learns that a promising prospect is already doing business with one of his printers or suppliers, he backs off in a hurry.

"We will not compete against the vendors we use because that would not be fair," says the president of eight-person Diversified Merchandising Inc. in Skokie, Illinois. It also wouldn't be good business practice, say advocates of a half-and-half approach that blends competition and cooperation in a strategy called "co-opetition."

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