Cover Stories Features November 2017 On The Cover

The Missing Link: Cooperation and collaboration between businesses is crucial to achieving success in Gainesville.


Written By: John Spence, International Speaker and Business Consultant

Business leaders that set an international standard for continuous learning, knowledge sharing, building amazing organizational cultures, creating highly innovative and valuable products and services and doing everything they can to assist other businesses in the area do the same thing.

In the last six months, I have traveled to work with clients in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Auckland, Amsterdam, Sydney and several other cities around the world. As I visit these places, I constantly think about how their business communities compare to Gainesville, and the truth is there are several similarities. They have access to great talent from top-ranked universities, innovative and creative businesses in high-value industries and play on a global stage. We have all of these in addition to being one of the best places in America to live.

Happily, I can think of several companies in Gainesville that meet all these criteria. A perfect example is Optym, a local business that develops sophisticated decision-making software for major companies around the globe. They have an extremely talented staff of highly educated individuals representing 30 different countries. Their team develops hugely valuable IPs and they are considered among the best in the world at what they do. A global powerhouse in their industry, with offices less than a mile from the Oaks Mall.

The big difference I saw? In all these other cities, there was a real focus across the business community on sharing ideas, helping each other and building the overall success of local economy. Everybody truly believed they were in it together, they were all on the same team. I talked to several CEOs in Auckland, and they rarely focused on their own company, but instead talked about how they contributed to the success of Auckland and New Zealand. In Amsterdam and Krakow, the community was really excited about education and entrepreneurship. People had great pride in the successful startups from their cities and continuous learning was viewed as an absolute necessity to remain globally competitive.

Toowoomba, a city in the middle of Australia that is very similar to Gainesville both in size and economic base, was widely recognized across the country as “punching above their weight,” by building an international reputation in the areas of farming, medicine and education.

To me, that is the major piece missing from Gainesville, a business community that is ferociously focused on helping each other and the entire area achieve greater success. Business leaders that set an international standard for continuous learning, knowledge sharing, building amazing organizational cultures, creating highly innovative and valuable products and services and doing everything they can to assist other businesses in the area do the same thing.

This gets to the heart of an idea I have championed for many years: co-option. Viewing your competition not as someone to destroy, but as another company to help. A mindset of believing that instead of fighting for your piece of the pie, you simply work together to make the pie bigger. In Christchurch, New Zealand I met with a company that is the shining example of this idea, Isaac Construction. In the brutally competitive market of road construction, Isaac has a handful of very tough competitors, and on some projects, they go head-to-head, but they have also created several partnerships which allow them to win bigger contracts together and share in the profits. I viewed this as a very sophisticated and advanced way to approach long-term business success.

Lastly, I was incredibly impressed by the sense of urgency everyone had to stop talking and start taking action. As one of my very good Kiwi friends, Kendall Langston, likes to say “they don’t build statues of committees.” The business people I met loved to get together to brainstorm, knoodle and explore exciting ideas, but just as quickly the conversation turned to, “what can we do tomorrow to get this off the ground?” I believe that every business, no matter where they are in the world, would do well to embrace this habit.

As Gainesville continues to grow, and it will, it is my hope that as new corporations move into our community we can welcome them as catalysts for bringing more talent, more ideas and more success to our entire region. But for success to happen, we must have a community that is excited about growth, triples down on education, thinks locally but competes globally and doesn’t just embrace change but drives change. Gainesville has the ability to stand toe-to-toe with any city in the world in the areas where we want to compete, we just have to do it together.

 

JOHN SPENCE has been recognized as one of the top 100 business thought leaders and as one of the top 500 leadership development experts in the world. He is an international keynote speaker and management consultant and has written five books on business and life success. www.johnspence.com

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