Competitors can be friends, too

Welcoming the other team to work together.

exp-competitorsBy Pilar Cuadra Funk, Indianapolis

In the environmental consulting firm where I work, our clients normally contact us when damage to the environment has already been done, and in most cases, expect us to complete a large task to help remediate the current state of contamination or other problems with very little time and funding.

There are many examples of the complex interactions with other parties involved. In one case, a long-time client, in order to save costs, decided to have a different environmental consultant (smaller and cheaper) conduct various routine tasks needed for a site, while keeping our company to handle the most complex aspects and provide general oversight of the project.

At a certain point, we started noticing some problems with a quarterly report produced by the other consultant. The field techniques used were deficient and the results obtained did not seem realistic. After various honest reviews of the work and different attempts to explain to the other consultant how to approach the site and also how to report the difficulties encountered, the reports were still incorrect.

For us, it would have been easier to just tell the client that it was better if we ourselves conducted the field activities and reported the data. Plus, it would have increased our income. But that could have left our relationship with that competitor in a bad place, if it seemed we felt we were better than them. It could also have made our relationship with our client more awkward as well.

Instead, trying to see this other consulting company not as competitors but welcoming them as fellow members of our community, working together for the good of this project and ultimately for the environment, our company proposed to send our own field crew to the site and to include the consultant’s field crew in order to provide some training for them.

The two crews went to the site and conducted the work in a collaborative way that, in the end, was beneficial for the whole project.

Reprinted with permission from Living City Magazine – Feb 2015.