In all aspects in your career, you will be faced with the decision either to collaborate or compete.
This goes from working with your classmates in a group project, or working with or against the people in your industry.
Both are viable tools for success, but for different reasons. Collaboration allows you to pull together your resources to create something amazing, competition allows you to have complete control over what you do and get there potentially faster.
Overall, each of them has their purpose, but I actually feel one is better than the other in almost all aspects. Even to the point where you’d make more enemies, there is an art to be productively competitive where you end up making the best connections
But first, let’s talk about collaboration. As many of you know, I collaborate with many companies and have found amazing success with them. Collaboration includes exchanging podcast interviews or working together to push a message forward. I believe there is a criteria, or checklist for collaborating that should be pretty intuitive.
Criteria for Collaboration
Same industry, different function: As we all know, the food industry is quite diverse and the jobs here are quite unique. In this context, I’ll label My Food Job Rocks as a media company for food industry career advice. So what would pair well with this? Obviously, Foodgrads! As a recruiting company in the food industry, they would be a perfect match since they need to attract young people in the food industry to generate revenue, and I need a channel to distribute my content. Overall, this leads to having the same audience.
Same audience, different function: Foodgrads and I have the same audience we want to get to so it makes sense for us to collaborate. Most food brokers and ingredient manufacturers also have this relationship with collaborating to target the same audience. Sure the ingredient manufacturers could sell their super peanutbutter to other companies, but it’s too much work since they have to deal with the complexities of the manufacturer. It’s much easier to “outsource” selling their ingredient to the many distributors out in the industry who’s sole purpose is to get people to buy their stuff.
Same Status: My Food Job Rocks! And Foodgrads works well because we are the same “status”, at least in the beginning, both Nicole and I we started with just an idea and built it up throughout the 2 years in business. People are more likely to work together if you are in the same perceived status as them. As you go higher up the social status ladder, you get noticed more by higher institutions. If you get lucky, an organization of a higher status will take interest in you and ask to work together. This is actually the best way to elevate your status quickly and I highly suggest saying yes to any of these opportunities.
Same moral principles and enjoyable to be around: Overall, you need to work with brands that encompass the same moral principles you have. Do your research and see what they’re like. Never work with people you don’t like. It’s not worth it and it just gets worse. There are plenty of fish in the sea when it comes to collaborating with people you do like and the point of the matter is to be able to collaborate again and again.
Sign Up For Our Weekly 5 Course Meal
I pick out 5 pieces of content from the latest food industry news to the greatest new products and leave my snarky comments every week.
Now let’s talk about competition.
I am decently competitive, but not in a jerk way. When I did IFT competitions, I invited the other teams to dinner after we presented. I am still really good friends with the people I competed with. I think competition brings the best in people and gets the adrenaline rushing. In most biographies about successful people I’ve read, the competitive people win.
One could argue that capitalism is awesome because it requires a huge amount of competition and as we try to “one-up” each other, it benefits people as a whole.
Dealing with competition is quite difficult as it’s a mixture of controlling your ego, choosing who you think is your competitor, and choosing how you execute being competitive.
I deal with competition internally. Most people that I deem my competitors don’t know me, don’t know that I’m a competitor, or don’t know what they’re doing.
You can deal with your ego by not obsessing over your metrics that make you the best. For the podcaster, itunes are a huge vanity metric, or a metric that everyone can see and judge you. Do they really matter? I have no idea. Downloads are a bit different. I’m a bit open on my download amounts but others aren’t. Downloads in the podcasting role is like your net worth and if you openly tell people your download numbers, then it’s like telling someone how much you make a year, which is highly subjective.
How you choose your competitors also matters. Tim Ferriss gives good advice on this. Don’t compare your podcast to Serial of Stuff You Should Know, who are not only a part of a huge media company, but also have a legitimate production budget. Instead, compare yourself with people in your area. I choose someone doing better than me and monitor who’s doing worse than me. It’s decently obvious who my competitors are, but I’ll let you figure it out.
In terms of a food company, it would not make sense for Isagenix to compare itself to General Mills or Cargill, but rather focus on MLM companies like Herbalife or Melaluca.
As for executing being competitive, there are many ways. You can tell people that your competitors suck, or not like their stuff. However, the best way is to not focus on your competitors and instead, shift most of your focus on helping your audience/target market. I would say 80% of your time should just be how to improve your product for your audience and the other 20% is looking at your competition and get inspired by what their doing and do the same (this is called copying). That’s why for me, I want to post consistently every week because of two reasons: My competitors won’t, and my audience loves it. Working in R+D is the same way. All that matters if that your product tastes good to your people.
So here is the criteria I use for competing with people
Criteria for Competion
Same exact industry, same exact service, same or overlapping target markets: If you interview people with food jobs, you’re in my circle and you are a competitor. Welcome!
Even though Diet Coke and La Croix are totally different products, they are both canned drinks targeting a specific target market (women). Coke probably panics when it looks up who’s soaring ahead of the competition and analyzes them very closely. I wouldn’t be surprised if Coke gets into the flavored canned water game. They did the same with Stevia.
Different Status, same target market: When the podcast was still young, I pitched to IFTSA and got shot down immediately. I said some stupid things in the email and it didn’t really work out. Anyways, this was me coming in with what was literally just an idea and talking to this 50 year old organization. Since their status was higher, I was immediately rejected. At that point, IFTSA becomes a bit of a competitor when it comes to conveying content to our target audience. The good news to this is that some very awesome alma mater and other insiders in IFT have helped me bring this to IFT’s attention and we’ll be doing some work with them soon. Whether that is a result of My Food Job Rocks actually being legit or IFT throwing a bone, that’s the happy ending.
They’re Jerks, or your philosophies clash: When I left Foodgrads to build up my own website, a former cofounder decided to make a podcast under the same vein as mine (of course, we haha’d about it, but it was kind of messed up). I did not like this former cofounder. I found her very controlling and micromanaging. They also did weekly interview podcasts and interviewed my friends, it was a terrible time. So I followed the same advice as above. I just launched more consistently and just busted high quality episodes weekly. After 13 weeks or so, the co-founder got burnt out and left. Nicole was cool, and I felt terrible for this to happen. So we made up and have supported each other ever since.
What is probably the most powerful thing about competition is that if you have the drive to own it, you have a huge amount of control over what you do and if you do have an ambitious spirit, then nothing can get into your way.
So now let’s do a case study
Right now, I’m working on a coffee creamer with stuff in it. I’m collaborating with another person. Apparently, 3 months ago, 2 other members of the team were working on it and it was going nowhere.
So there was a dilemma about all 4 of us collaborating and busting out a great project. Examining the situation, here’s what I noticed: Though the two other people who were working on the coffee creamers were good guys, and were smart, they took too long because scientists like to overcomplicate things and do things on their own. Collaborating with them would be a nightmare because nothing would get done. You end up NOT moving the needle because you spend your time arguing.
However, I started this project 1 month ago and got our second iterations of samples. Using my external resources and knowing what our consumers want made this project a low-stress cake walk.
At the end, I decided to compete with them because the project took little stress to do and it was easy. Worst case scenario is that if our product sucks, we actually have a backup. Not only that, but if they did complain, the you can always counter back with “ok, where’s your sample?” It’ll kick your competitors into gear and you really with spark some great innovation.
I do this a lot with many products and especially flavor extensions. A big one is when marketing sends their suggestions, I do mine as well. The best thing is that your judge, jury and executioner are the consumers so as long as you convince people that you’re making products for the consumers, the cultural shift towards being competitive should be positive.