“Your competitors don’t have to lose for you to win.”
–Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple

Every company and organization needs a solid partnership strategy to grow and stay relevant. Sometimes, the best partnership strategy is “co-opetition.” 

What is co-opetition? In the simplest terms, co-opetition is when you collaborate with a competitor to achieve a business objective. The essence of competition calls for winners and losers; co-opetition does away with the notion that “to win, your competitor must lose.”

But why would you work with your competitors? In situations where you, your competitor, and your client will mutually benefit from working together, co-opetition can create a “win-win-win” for everyone involved. 

Here’s a summary of the co-opetition concept, and what to look for in a potential co-opetition partner. 

Which Companies Practice Co-opetition?

Co-opetition is more common than people realize, especially in industries like tech and medicine, where new advancements are constantly being made. Apple, for example, has worked with both Microsoft and Samsung—arguably their two biggest competitors—to increase their market share.

When is Co-opetition the Right Move?

Although not on the scale of Apple, we also practice co-opetition here at LMD. As a federal contractor, we often need to partner with other companies to secure contracts. We may partner to bring breadth of services, unique qualifications, a highly specialized skill, or access to a talent pool that can scale to the client’s needs. We typically look for partners that have complementary skills and values to LMD.

Other reasons to partner include saving money, expanding industry knowledge, avoiding duplication of effort, and managing risk. 

How Do You Implement a Co-opetition Strategy?

While co-opetition can be the right fix, it requires careful research before taking the first step. We recommend conducting a gap analysis to understand your company's needs and the options available to meet those needs. If you conclude it would be in the company’s best interest to find a partner to fill those gaps, co-opetition may be the best move. 

Next, you’ll need to research competitors and determine the right fit in terms of capabilities and reputation. 

At LMD, we look for seven different behaviors before partnering with another organization: 

  1. Trust. Both partners should be reliable when dealing with sensitive information, use sound judgment, and maintain confidentiality. Trust is the most important factor above everything else. 

  2. Commitment. Both partners should dedicate appropriate time and resources, so they’re available, accessible, responsive, and fully vested in the success of the partnership and the success of the contract/client.

  3. Transparency. Each partner must share information necessary to the partnership's success. 

  4. Loyalty. As partners, each organization should support, back up, and protect the reputation of the other. 

  5. Respect. Partners must respect others’ values and contributions by affirming strengths and treating others with dignity. 

  6. Communication. Both partners should maintain open and positive lines of communication throughout the life of the contract.

  7. Mutual benefit. Without mutual benefit, there is no viable partnership. All partners must benefit from the co-opetition arrangement in a way that reflects the value they bring to the team. 

Both parties must practice the above behaviors to ensure a successful and potentially long-lasting partnership.

Co-opetition can be a creative and fruitful solution to help individual companies meet their business goals, but a co-opetition strategy requires careful consideration. Interested in learning more about building a co-opetition strategy for your organization? Contact LMD. And cheers to good partners!

As President of LMD, Holly builds partnerships, leads business development pursuits, and ensures LMD employees and clients have rewarding experiences. Holly brings over three decades of federal, global, and corporate...Read more