“Colleague” or “Competitor”?

To “Friend” or Not to “Friend”

A former client, now friend – we’ll call him Charlie – called me for some advice on an interesting dilemma:  Since Charlie’s recent TV interview has gained a good bit of online publicity, several people from within his industry have requested to connect with him via Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin (like many of us, he also has an active blog and YouTube channel). The thing is, Charlie works in an industry with loads of competition – in fact, in his town alone there must be 100 other companies that do what he does … and they’re all vying for the same local and regional clients. So in Charlie’s small world, “colleague” is often synonymous with “competitor.”

Here is Charlie’s concern:

  • “I’m very selective about whom I connect with on Facebook. I use it mainly for personal stuff. But what if I ‘friend’ someone who steals my business ideas?”

In this post I’ll address his concerns. I expect several of you will feel compelled to chime in. As always, I invite and value your comments.


Create Your World

In the social media universe, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube are the big four. Each has extensive privacy controls to make you highly visible to the world, completely INvisible/inaccessible, or something in between. Decide what’s right and best for you. We’ll use Facebook as an example here:

Make the choice:Join Driven to Excel on Facebook

a. my Facebook presence is strictly personal
b. my Facebook presence is strictly professional
c. my Facebook presence is rated “E” for everyone


If you choose to go fully public as a representative of your business, give some thought to creating a social media strategy that feels right for you and is aligned with your mission. You could post daily, weekly or monthly updates, sharing videos and articles like I do. Once you’ve made your choice, the path becomes clear and moving forward will be easier. For a live example of these easy-to-follow guidelines, CLICK HERE.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to Charlie’s main concern.


I don’t wanna give away my best stuff!

Top SecretSocial media has created an interesting dilemma for many of us, especially those of us in the intellectual property space. On the one hand, we want to share our “best stuff” with the world so it eventually makes it onto the desks and into the hands of the decision makers – the folks who will buy from us. On the other hand, making our “best stuff” easily accessible to the masses also puts it in the hands of our competition. What to do?


Scarcity vs. Abundance

I’ve found that there are two distinct mindsets when it comes to this topic:

Scarcity, Lack and Limitation Mindset: “I have a limited supply of ‘best stuff’ and I don’t want my competitors stealing it from me and calling it their own. Everyone is desperate for clients and I’m no different.”

Abundance Mindset: “I’m constantly learning, growing and evolving, both personally and professionally. Therefore, I have no shortage of ideas and creativity – my best stuff is always being supplemented by new stuff or replaced by even better stuff. Further, if I don’t close a deal, then it probably wasn’t meant to be. There’s enough business for everyone, even in a down economy. I don’t know how it happens, but I tend to attract the clients that are best for me.”

You probably know people who fit squarely into one of the above categories/mindsets. Not surprisingly, I count myself in the second. I love seeing people thrive in a down economy, It’s as if they’re living in their own world, unaffected by outside factors – factors that are well beyond their own control anyhow. This attitude is a choice. Which mindset/attitude have you chosen?

The Best and Right Clients for You

NetworkingIn 2007 I co-founded a leadership group that meets monthly. Although it’s never formally been called a “networking” group, a great deal of networking occurs naturally among our members. And since it’s not a “networking” type group, we’ve never made any rules about having only one person per industry in attendance. In other words, it’s not at all uncommon to attend a session in which there are, say, 3 people from the financial services industry and 2 from the real estate field. This has never posed a challenge for us. In fact, everyone gets along incredibly well and many great friendships/partnerships have formed over the years. I suppose we tend to attract members with an abundance mentality.

You see, it wouldn’t matter if we had five Realtors in attendance and here’s why: Most of us already know (or at least know of) 2 or more Realtors. Think of a friend who may soon need a Realtor. Chances are you instinctively know which Realtor you’d connect that person with – the one you trust and would feel most comfortable  working with yourself (or even the Realtor who’s a better fit for your friend (and not necessarily you)).

We tend to attract the best and right clients for ourselves. And we tend to refer those that aren’t quite right for us to other professionals who might be a better fit. I know plenty of trainers, consultants and coaches and I’ve shared referrals with most of them. That’s the beauty of the abundance mentality – it allows you to shelve your concerns about sharing your “best stuff” with the world, knowing that you’ll attract the ideal clients for you.


No one is going to do “you” better than you

A couple years back, I was disheartened at how a local person in my industry had taken several of my ideas and used them as if they were her own – things like tag lines and article topics/themes. It felt icky that someone would blatantly take my words and adopt them, with very little variation. While voicing my disdain to a friend and colleague, she said something that made me care much less about this person’s lack of integrity and poor principles. She said, “Steve, no one will ever do you better than you.” In other words, you can’t fake authenticity. There’s only one “you” and no one will ever deliver your “stuff” quite like you. I immediately felt a sense of relief. I’ve never been one to hold onto resentment, but this act had certainly rubbed me the wrong way. Now I could completely let it go.

“Charlie,” I hope this helps you. And I’m excited to see what comments others will share below…


  1. Suzi Pomerantz says

    Great post, Steve! Excellent points! And I think there’s a way to give away your best stuff without giving away the while enchilada. One of the world’s top executive coaches, Marshall Goldsmith, has a huge resource of his best stuff at marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com and he gives it all away for free. He says it this way: nobody can ever steal from me. If I give it all away, then if someone uses it it’s not stealing because I gave it to them! 🙂

  2. Love it, Suzi.

  3. Steve, you make a great argument for generosity and an abundance mentality
    Way back in the 80’s and 90’s I ran a company that had some unusual practices. We’d go way out of our way for customers, we had a cool set of core values, we wrote some edgy, humorous technical articles, and we even recorded our own nutty “commercials-on-hold” in lieu of music. Early on we debated whether or not to publish our core values and tell about our “secret practices.” We concluded that it was highly unlikely we would be copied by our competitors. The reason: Even if they knew what and how we did what we did, they did not have the culture nor the commitment to follow through and walk the talk.

  4. So true, Lowell. SO true.

  5. Steve,

    Thank you for the article and all that you do with your posts.

    I have found a simple solution for this dilemma. I keep personal – personal, and business – business. I have a Facebook account that I have limited to family only – I have let one of my daughter’s friends who calls me her second Dad in by mistake sort of – and did not unfriend her, but that is it… if you are not related by marriage or blood – no Facebook for you… even my best friends don’t get in – I think I am up to 14-15 friends and 145 requests stewing in the wings. If you have a cut and dry rule, it is what it is and there is no guilt.

    For business I use LinkedIn and on there I have over 1000 contacts.

    Now having said this, if I were inclined I would open up Facebook to selected friends, and anyone that was outside the desired immediate circle, I would tell them that my Facebook is for my family and a few really close friends but I use LinkedIn for all my business contacts. Or I could set up a business Facebook account separate from personal and use that instead, keeping my family and business concepts to my more trusted FB account. If you have already crossed the line, it might be heard to undo what has been done (like my not unfriend-ing my daughter’s friend) so you may have to create a new personal FB account for friends and family.


  6. Steven, that’s quite a disciplined approach. I suppose it’s all about making your own rules (preferably in advance) and sticking to those rules. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Steve,

    Thank you so much for so distinctly outlining the scarcity vs. abundance mentality!! We often have this debate as we so strongly believe our systems and processes are a huge part of our success. However, when we put all that aside, I realize it’s the passion and purpose that is the real engine behind our business.

    All the great ideas in the world can’t make up for the energy put behind the relationship building that is our true nature. Thanks so much for sharing and for all that you do!

  8. Well said, Mina.

  9. JoAnn Johnson says

    Three years ago I started a collaborative wiki site from which has sprung an unlimited amount of inspiration on the simple goal of building a better slow feeder for horses. It’s just a hobby for me; I don’t sell anything, but I’ve enjoyed seeing elements of design first pioneered there by other hobbyists actually turn up in new commercial products. Even the vast majority of manufacturers are tolerant of the DIY slant of this site, despite knowing that their design may indeed be copied for personal use. Most folks prefer to compare the options and buy the best fit for their horsey situation. It is truly a symbiotic relationship between innovative horse keepers, and manufacturers who can bring the concept to a wider range of caring horse owners; those who don’t have the time, skills or inclination to build their own feeders.

  10. @JoAnn: thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

    BTW: Bob Burg just posted this on Facebook. How perfect:

    “A creative (wo)man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” ~Ayn Rand (This is one of my favorite quotes of Rand, which I saw this morning in a tweet by great friend, Nika Stewart)

  11. Competitors fight for their piece of pie…colleagues expand their mutual horizons. Which sounds better to you?

  12. EXACTLY, Gwen.


  1. […] If a rising tide lifts all boats (John F. Kennedy), then why not look to edify others in your industry. You either have the mindset of abundance or one of scarcity. Some call them competitors, but what if you began to think of them as collaborators; partners; colleagues? Perhaps there’s enough for everyone and we can learn from one another. Besides, no one will ever do “you” … better than you. […]

  2. […] In the following quote from Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.com, he explains that your energy is far better spent focusing on your customers than on your competitors… […]

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