Survival in business depends on many factors. One that is often overlooked is the support network of others in the field, even with direct competitors. Some businesspeople believe the lessons learned must be kept strictly in house, secreted away from all competitors, in order to maintain a competitive advantage. Other folks have reputations for sharing knowledge to any and all who would benefit, regardless of affiliation. This is a truism for every business sector, not just the pond trade. Apple is widely known for its secrecy, yet it also has rolled out products that have spawned hundreds of complementary and competing new companies over the years. Where, then, is the lesson to be learned?
If you listen to Eric Triplett, Exotic Waterscapes also known as The Pond Digger, he will tell you there is more to be gained by sharing information than hording it.
Eric runs a thriving business in the Southern California Community of Yucaipa and seems to have an interest in every segment of this trade from pond contracting to running a retail storefront, to his own brand of products under The Pond Digger name.
So with all this going on, why has he now launched a monthly Meetup group of pond contractors in his area? Sure they are potential customers for his product line, but they are also his direct competitors to his primary business, pond building.
The answer is simple. Nobody has all the answers. No matter how long you have been in a trade, there is always something new to learn. What better venue for growing your skills, than an open idea exchange with others in your field. If you can put aside your fear of helping your competitors, there is much to be gained.
In San Diego, pond contractor Mark Lawson (Koi Depot) recently hosted the first meeting of a Meetup Group – The Pond Retailer/Contractor Meetup Group. Like Erik, Mark probably doesn’t need to share his knowledge with others, but sees the value in networking with his peers. He is using the www.Meetup.com tool to promote the new group. You can take a look at his listing at http://www.meetup.com/The-Pond-Retailer-Contractor-Meetup-Group/ or try the shorten link – http://bit.ly/ACGMfa.
On the other end of the spectrum is pondliner.com, who recently hosted their 7th Annual Contractors event, drawing almost 200 contractors to Shawnee, Oklahoma in the dead of winter. With 25 exhibitors and 21 seminars, this event easily qualifies as a full-blown trade show in our industry. Over two packed days, attendees get to visit a trade show, and attend seminars on three different concurrent tracks. The difference between this event and that held by trade associations, is that they pick up all the costs, and the vendors in the show all represent products sold and distributed by Pondliner, and are writing orders for Pondliner. This then is a very powerful sales tool, as well as knowledge sharing and networking opportunity. Aquascape has championed annual events, with their Pondemonium blowouts for their contractors, and companies like Aquatic-Eco Systems, and Blue Thumb Distributing hold events as well. So getting together to share info and connect with others in the trade, even competitors, is clearly an idea with merit.
As professionals in an industry fighting its way up from craft to profession, it is vital that we talk to each other, and learn from each other. Only then can true industry standards be established, based on widely sourced input and industry wide support. That in the end is the key to a truly strong and stable industry for us all.