Is there really any such thing as friendly competition in business?

Business news and opinion

18 May 2016

When it comes to rival SMEs, do small businesses regard each other with suspicion, or simply as friendly competitors?

We quizzed over 800 of the nation’s small business owners* to find out how they really feel about their competition...

Unfriendly rivals?

A popular belief about business competitors is that they’re constantly grappling to be in lead position. In actual fact, our survey shows the vast majority of SMEs don’t view each other in such a fierce way. Less than 5% of our respondents believed their competitors had negative intentions towards them, and only 3% of those surveyed confessed to a desire to see their rivals fail.

Brothers in arms?

At the other end of the spectrum, more than half of our respondents considered competing small businesses to be ‘brothers in arms’ or ‘friendly rivals’. This suggests that, not only is it possible for there to be such a thing as friendly competition in business, it may actually be the norm.

Indifferent to the competition

Our survey also uncovered a third category of respondents – those who were simply indifferent to their competition, with just under 30% stating that their existence did not interest them one way or another. This adds more weight behind the possibility, at least among small businesses, that competitors are too busy with their own goals and priorities to care about their ‘rivals’.

Just over 17% of our respondents said their attitude towards their competition wasn’t represented in the options offered. It's possible that those business owners view their competitors as a valuable source of information, and therefore an asset when it comes to marketing strategies and industry research.

Market research agency Tonic believes competitors' websites, social media accounts and brochures are key sources of business intelligence, while small business marketing agency Grow suggests that rival SMEs can even be your best friends when it comes to future-proofing your business, since competitor analysis can allow you to avoid mistakes made by others and identify winning strategies within your industry.

How do you feel about your business competitors? Are they friendly rivals, potential allies or simply a non-issue? Let us know what you think in the comments.

*Based on a study of 800 micro-business owners conducted by AXA Business Insurance in March 2016