Collaborative pix II

Covid creates collaboration among competitors

Covid has fundamentally changed ‘playing conditions’ for commerce all around the world.

But as a result of the pandemic a group of Wellington and Auckland digital businesses have started meeting both online and now in real life - even though they’re fierce competitors in some of the services they deliver.

As the saying goes, ‘adversity makes for strange bedfellows’. The collaboration among like-minded businesses is part of the reason has been established as a way for companies to leverage off each others' expertise and capacity.

CEO of digital agency Alphero, Caroline Dewe, says as borders started closing around the world in early March, she and others realised things were going to get tough.

She reached out to Bron Thomson of Springload, and Sam Minnee of Silverstripe.

“We could see a lockdown was coming,” says Caroline. “Even though we’re competitors, we’re all running businesses, dealing with much of the same stuff. We wanted someone safe to talk to.”

This was the beginning of a regular Wednesday Zoom call, to which Fronde CEO Jason Delamore and Adept NZ CEO Dominic Stow were also invited to join.

“As professional services businesses we agreed to support each other, discuss and not discuss some topics and talk about market trends we’re observing,” Caroline says.

“It meant - and still means - that we feel less alone, while finding it extremely useful to compare notes.”

She says the practicalities of running teams remotely was a challenge they all shared.

Questions such as how to retain a business culture, the use of Slack channels, and helping people who are upset or overly stressed were discussed.

“With remote teams we realised that no one size fits all, especially around handling communications and sending out messages,” she says.

“For example at Alphero we set up a slack channel for parents. Some loved it, while others found it exhausting.

“The most important thing was that we were able to share tips and tricks and get on with our businesses.”

Continued meetings in real life

Even after lockdown ended the collaborative group has continued to meet in real life on a monthly basis, including inviting in two other CEOs.

The new-found collegiality has even extended to assisting each other with capacity - such as providing a developer for another company, or hooking up a person into a fulltime position in a business.

“It has shown that we all want to do the right thing for our teams and for our clients,” Caroline says.

“It’s a tightrope running a business, but if we help each other out, it is better for everyone.”

She says that even though the individual businesses are sometimes directly competing on some opportunities, there’s still a strong level of trust between them.

This even includes passing on sales leads to one another if the job doesn’t particularly fit the original company.

Another major benefit is putting some actual facts around market gossip. Between themselves they can confirm or deny circulating speculation, and can often nip false news in the bud.

“It’s really quite bizarre that what’s popped out of this situation is making friends of competitors,” she says.

“We’re people working together through these times. We’re a trusting group...and that’s really quite refreshing.”


Caption: Caroline Dewe, centre, and from top left and clockwise, Sam Minnee, Bron Thomson, Dominic Stow and Jason Delamore