Collaboration or Competition?

I attended an AHA Training Center forum a few weeks ago.  I'm always learning something new and the vendors usually have great stuff to share.  :)  I had joined in on a conversation with a few instructors and we realized a few minutes into our discussion that one of them is a local instructor affiliated with a different training center than mine.  She said to me "You're my competitor".

Um... what?

My first instinct was to say "No, we're colleagues. Not competitors."

But it got me thinking afterwards.  Why do instructors, and maybe business owners in general, look at others in their field as competitors?  I've been teaching CPR and First Aid for almost 15 years, 8 of those as a small business.  I've only run across one training center that has been somewhat competitive, undercutting and a little aggressive at times.  I won't name them, that's not fair, but I've had folks in my classes who previously took a class with them and didn't want to go back when they needed to renew their certification.

I'm fortunate to be a a very collaborative training center where we refer businesses and students to each other.  If someone contacts me for a class, but I can't fit them in my schedule, I have several instructors I'm happy to refer them to.  When I get a call for a class that is further than I'm willing to drive, I refer them to another instructor.  And those instructors do the same for me.  We have a great collaborative relationship which I think strengthens our businesses and ensures that people looking for a CPR or First Aid class are able to find one.

I don't see myself in competition with other instructors.  I do see myself as doing the best I can to provide fun and informative classes.  That is what I hopes makes people want to take my classes.  But I'm not competitive; you either want to attend my class or someone else's.  I'm not going to chase down business.  I'm a small part-time woman-owned business run by a full-time mom and I'm happy with that.  I love to collaborate and meet other instructors, I don't want to compete with them.

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