I’ve been facinated to support clients as they wrestle with the concepts in the book, Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan and Renee Mauborgne, Harvard Business School Press, 2005.

The main premise of this book is that “in today’s overcrowded industries, competing head-on results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.” The authors argue that “tomorrow’s leading companies will succeed not by battling competitors, but by creating blue oceans of uncontested market space ripe for growth”.

In my work with entrepreneurs in creating innovative alliances for their business, I notice that such alliances can be fantastic vehicles to take their respective businesses into unchartered waters and in doing so, leave the competition in their wake. We focus on identifying potential alliances that can expose them to completely new markets, and groups of people or sets of needs, instead of the tried and true.

The classic approach to conducting a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Oppportunities and Threats) seems far too self-limiting when the focus is almost exclusively on the competition. Such thinking keeps you in the same sandbox as the rest of the players.

It’s been my experience that when I have conversations with potential alliance partners, they tend to fall into one of two camps. There are those whose first reaction is resistance… they look down, shake their heads, fold in on themselves and almost literally shrink before my eyes. Then there are others who look up and out, eyes lit up with possibility, their gestures become more animated and inclusive. They connect with my idea and then expand it outward to include their perspective. Sparks of generativity fly! Both they and the ideas themselves become larger as we speak.

So… the next time you conduct a business analysis… challenge yourself to look well-beyond the traditional thinking of, “Who is my competition?” and begin to look at questions like, “How can I reach more people and benefit other businesses by creatively aligning myself with others?”

Developing innovative alliances is a topic for which I have an inordinate amount of passion. Generally, I find that people think of alliances as a type of informal partnership between similar businesses or between people in the same profession.

Yet, one of the biggest opportunities that I see for leveraging alliances is in collaborating with people OUTSIDE your profession. In this way, you take your business to people who might not otherwise ever find out about you.

How would you like other organizations to help you build your business… with no fee$ to you?? By collaborating with other professionals who are passionate about your services (and you theirs), you will raise your profile, reinforce your niche and build a strong source of referrals.

If you are a Coach or Consultant, you’ll want to check out this Workshop I’m offering on March 15th in downtown Toronto.


Of course, the principles apply equally well to other entrepreneurial business owners that I coach. I’d love to walk you through the Developing Innovative Alliances Model and help you look at the fresh ways you could enroll others in bringing clients and customers to your door.

Some of you, like me, are among the list of over 46,000 people who subscribe to marketing guru, Robert Middleton’s wonderfully readable, weekly newsletters containing valuable marketing tips. (If you aren’t, then get to http://www.actionplan.com to sign-up!)

Over the holidays, Robert wrote that the greatest gift that you can give to another human being is the opportunity for them to contribute in a meaningful way. He then asked for specific ideas about how Independent Professionals can make a contribution by allowing others to contribute to them.

Upon reading this, I paused for a bit… debating between wrapping presents, wrapping-up a client year-end report and taking Robert up on the opportunity to contribute. Of course, Robert’s offer held the most allure. So… I took the time to write about the many ways that my relationship with Lock Search Group, a North American recruitment firm, has positively impacted my business.

Here’s the newsletter containing my feedback…


Now for the ripple effect. By allowing me to contribute content for his newsletter, in return I have since received inquiries from new contacts/potential clients in Australia and in California. Thanks Robert!

Ah-h-h… the power of the internet. The power of community. The power of the gift of contribution.

Here’s to discovering the gifts of the season that are most important to you!