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Next time you’re researching new markets before moving into a new sector or geography who will you consult? Will it be a research company, a marketing agency or simply Google? There are other options out there.

As he developed his strategy to break into the US, Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly, chose a rather unlikely source of information and advice – his competitors.

“I’ve always found that if you’re humble when you ask people’s advice the vast majority of them are willing to give you their time, certainly in the US,” explained Twidell, who leads the booking platform for private jet chartering. He said of his competitors: “I’ve known them for a long time and always had good relationship with them. But it surprised me how friendly they’ve been. Having had lunches and dinners, I’ve often been taken aback by it – I just asked them for their opinions.”

But why would a company help a competitor, especially one that is about to launch on their patch? “There are benefits for everyone in knowing a certain number of competitors well,” commented Twidell. “You can warn each other about things happening in the sector and share best practice. People will sometimes say to you: ‘We’ve had a problem here, have you experienced it too? If so, how did you get around it?’ With private aviation, in particular, it’s a big market out there and there’s enough to share around.”

Not everybody that Twidell approached was forthcoming, and he stressed that his conversations with competitors have been about sharing learnings when launching in new markets rather than revealing business secrets. “We’ll talk about things such as fraud prevention or regulations in a particular territory. After all, there’s strength in numbers.”

Today the US accounts for 26 per cent of the company’s sales, along with 43 per cent in EMEA and 31 per cent in the UK. With its UK base in St Albans, PrivateFly has a turnover of £27m and is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

Key takeaways

  • Competitors can be an unlikely source of advice and support.
  • Opening a dialogue with your competitors means you can share learnings and best practice as well as warning each other about potential issues in your sector.

About the author

Be the Business

This article was produced by our productivity partner Be the Business. We’re working with Be the Business to help businesses across the UK improve their productivity and boost their performance.

Find out more about Be the Business.


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