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Don’t Wanna Be In Your Gang!

“D’ya wanna be in my gang, my gang, my gang? D’ya wanna be in my gang? Oh Yeah!” Gary Glitter used to sing that song when I was a child, and I used to love it.  Not so much anymore and not for his mis-deeds, but for the exclusionary nature of it.

I’ve attended quite a few network groups over the last year, some free, some as a visitor where after two visits you either join or don’t come back. I like the fact that they give you a taster of what to expect at them.  Apart from one group, Network Ireland (surprisingly a women’s group), all of the other paid network groups have a no-competition rule, unless the company you are competing against allows you to join.  Yes, your direct competition or even sometimes not so direct competition has the power of veto over you getting access to the group.

I don’t know about you, I find that not only childish – you are not getting to play with my toys – but exclusionary and I can’t abide exclusion when it is totally unnecessary.   I’ve voiced my opinion to many people in the last year and of course members of such groups defend their stance vehemently.  Some non-members did too, a lot of coaches and NLP practitioners drilled down to my core issue with it.  That is:

Where in your business are you not playing full-out such that competition is a threat rather than an incentive to up your game?

I’ve declared before that I was a party plan manager for a UK business trading in Ireland (funnily enough, exclusionary – women only, lol). Some other managers would not share party hosting tips, sales tips, recruiting tips etc in the mis-guided belief that a newcomer to their area would decrease their business. I ignored all that, my attitude then and now is, there is more than enough business to go around.  I found that when there were more party planners in a given area, the number of parties requested often out-numbered both my ability and my team’s ability to fulfill them and I often had to pass parties to another manager.

If you are not playing to the very best of your ability and giving your very best service, then frankly, the fact that a customer might not choose you is your own fault.   If you are and they still don’t choose you it, in all probability, is because not everybody will like your style, in fact some will prefer mine.

It is the very same in most businesses.  Competition increases awareness, which also by default increases choice.  Not all customers are meant to be yours.  My coaching style is definitely not for everybody!  I do get results, and I would prefer to refer on a client that wants to use a different method to get their results to another coach. Because of that I keep a database of coaches both NLP and non-NLP.  If I get a continuous negative feedback on a coaching style I use, I know I have to up my game to overcome that.   If I had a no-competition rule, I wouldn’t even consider forwarding that client on.  Nor would I have to consider quite so often upping my game to be the best at what I love doing, both on a personal level and to help my clients get the results they want.  Both of us would lose out in the long run.

Mairéad Kelly developed the Cute Honey System - Business training, coaching & mentoring for Mumpreneurs & Mum Biz Owners who want to buzz their business into a hive of productivity while raising young children & often can’t get out to training events, morning or evening network events due to family commitments and/or a lack of finances.

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  • Nice one Mairead!Unfortunately the pillar of many thoughts (too many), opinions rules and laws is based on “scarcity”, not abundance. This way, whoever is in charge of coming up with the solution, must come up (and worry) in parallel that his/her resource/idea/solution will not be stolen, copied, etc.If while going through this creation process, that person would have invested that valuable portion of time in creating more or improving the idea, instead of worrying about the competition, he/she would have gotten farther.Seth Godin shares a great example of this type of thinking, quoting the High Skills US visa programme. It consists in ONLY welcoming from abroad X amount of remarkable scientists because… going over that amount would mean “fewer” jobs for the locals and “less” opportunities… Unbelievable. Not even one person thought about the multiplication of opportunities and jobs that these brains could generate?

  • Mairead! have a look at Seth Godin’s post from today! “Competition”.
    Very relevant

  • Love your attitude! I also believe that there’s more than enough for everyone and that competition is good for business. Most good marketers know that competition increases interest in niche and attracts more new customers by value of social proof.

  • Thanks Fred, he certainly validates what I was getting at 🙂

  • Very true. I am starting Mastermind Group Coaching soon for various niches and one of the concerns that has been voiced repeated has been “I don’t want my idea stolen by someone else in the group”, which has given rise to me creating a counter-measure for those attendees. It’s true, too many poeple worry about their idea being “stolen” mostly because they are emotionally attached to it. When someone finds a way to improve on your idea, it would be a lot better to approach them and see if the pair of you could join up and move forward together – now there is a thought!

  • Thank you Priya (I’m sorry is Florence part of your first or last name?). It just goes to show how many marketers could do with stepping up a bit, unfortunately.

  • Hi Mairead. Florence is my middle (Christian) name. You have a beautiful name too. Is it Irish? 🙂

  • Thank you Priya, yes it’s the Irish for Margaret. An easy way to get the pronunciation is: Parade – Mairéad, completely different spelling of course but similar pronunciations.

  • Thank you for this. I have struggled with this since arriving to live and work in Ireland from the US two years ago. I have come to understand that a smaller market and habit of begrudgery is at work here, but I am nonetheless disheartened by it.

    I owe what success I have had to the benefits of networking and the generosity of many in the groups to which I belong. The good news is that as a result of the fact that this exclusionary practice is accepted, folks who practice it actually boast about it – and I know which relationships to avoid.

    I look forward to learning more about your practice and having the opportunity to refer.

  • Thanks Eve. It is unfortunate that your experience (like so many coming in from abroad) has had a huge negative impact on you. IMHO many Irish people, as well as businesses could do with a good shaking up and a painful kick up the jacksy to get them to shake of the “poor me” and the begrudery attitude. I have crossed verbal swords with many members of closed groups, however I have learnt to use them to my advantage when the need arises.

    As you say you have learnt from it, decide to let the dis-heartened feeling float away as an unnecessary appendage you cut loose and use the energy released from letting it go towards growing your business instead. As Ivana Trump said: “Don’t get even, get better!!”

  • Anonymous

    Great post Mairéad. I can’t stand exclusion, but unfortunately it is inbred certainly in the Irish culture, where you can be damned if you’re different. All you need to do is think back to behaviour in the school playground to see it at it’s worst.

  • Again, you shine like a bright star in the darkness of Irish Business Clouds. We have had discussions here on Bloggertone about scarcity and abundance, protecting ideas, original ideas and downright begrudgery (I think that’s not quite a word, but I find it fitting).

    It’s time for Irish Business owners to encourage eachother, share ideas and welcome competition. And it’s not like 99% of business ideas are unique anyway, either you do something better, or you cater for a specific niche.

    There is work out there to be had, money to be made, business to be done, let’s get on with it then!

    Thanks Mairead, great insight 🙂

  • Thanks Elaine. I back every word you said 100%, except: begrudgery, I looked it up, it’s in the dictionary:

    informal ( Irish ) resentment of any person who has achieved success or wealth

    You hit the nail on the head with that word!!

  • Oh boy! Don’t I know that, I’ve always stood out from the crowd with my opinions. Times are coming when that attitude will no longer serve and like the Celtic Tiger’s current whimper those who practice it will have to either learn fast or sink!!

  • Love it, love it, love it! Your article AND competition. Competition is what sets the pace, works as a benchmark, pushes you to work harder and also….in the case of networking groups, give you someone to collaborate with – YES people in the same industry do discuss it and share ideas – interesting irony.

    How well do you know you’re doing without watching the competition, where can you (cough) borrow ideas, compare prices, services and products.
    Competition is a driver.

    Many networking groups go with the ‘two from each industry’ to make things easier to recommend business. I say, be neutral and honest – if you have worked with them and it was fantastic, say so….if there are four web developers in the group for example and someone needs a developer – here’s four, have a chat with them. Business is business and we all have to pitch and prove our worth. That will happen regardless of the barriers.

    As a sidenote the new ‘Cork women in business support group’ doesn’t have such rules and is a new group in Cork. It is all women at this stage, but we’d like to include the guys if interested. We recommend each other regardless of numbers and the group is free to attend (!/group.php?gid=133312460021453)

    Thanks for being on the same wavelength and very well written!


  • Great great observations & post! I know of one Irish representative body where the whole agenda is to drive business towards some of the companies & people involved. The unfortunate thing is that state bodies and educational institutes are supporting this through their sponsorship of this entity.

  • Ann Sheehy

    Mairead, I completely agree with you. Not alone does the anti-competition clause mean that you are the only one of your kind in the group, but more importantly there will always only be one of your target market customer also. For example, if I am a food producer and want to target supermarket managers, what bang for my considerable buck (in some cases) am I getting if I am never going to meet more than 1 supermarket manager in my group?

    Ann Sheehy

  • Brian

    After reading your words, Mairead and the comments as well, I have been enlightened greatly on a particular mystery regarding this country’s economy. I should state that I am an American ex-pat. I find this spirit of non-competition perplexing in a lot of ways. I have even experienced institutionalized non-competitive attitudes when applying for grants, etc. The claim is that by doing what i do best, I may possibly put others who do what I do out of business. While that is not my intention of course, is that not part and parcel of true competition?
    I see it everywhere….”We’re Irish”. So what you’re Irish? Do you do what you do better or provide a better product than a non-Irish company? If not, then being Irish means nothing in as far as business quality and ethos. These gang style groups you speak of, Mairead are of no use to the businesses involved and especially to driving our internal and external economies.
    I truly wish that all businesses would share the attitude of yours, Mairead and that of my fellow posters here.
    Where I’m from in America, I was fortunate enough to belong to what was more of a kinship of businesses as opposed to small gangs of back biters. Although we were all out for ourselves on a day to day basis, we would help each other out in a pinch. If someone was too strained on a deadline we would pitch in…if we had too much work to handle we would give out the numbers of our competition if we thought they could use the work. I can see it may be a long way to that happening here, but it surely can eventually become the rule rather than the exception.
    Back when I was a young one, sometime in the (ahem) common era, I ran track and field for my school.
    There were two things I took from this and kept with me until this day…First, when you are running a race, never look back over your shoulder as it would only slow you down. The second one was run fast and jump high. This is what my fellow track and field members told each other on the day of the track meet. It’s all we could say at this point, because by then you either could do it or you couldn’t and all you could do was your very best.
    So let’s all continue to raise the bar for ourselves. I can only benefit this economy and also the collective pride of the business community here in Ireland.
    Friends, “Run fast and jump high!”


  • Thanks Tina,

    Absolutely! If you have nothing to compare and improve against you run the risk of stagnation.
    I recommend people/businesses on my good experience of them, plain and simple. I certainly don’t do it because I’m expected to do it as a member of any particular network with them.

  • That used to be called nepotism, until we all became “postive thinking”. There are far too many rules and regulations, blocks and “passing the buck” civil servants in most of the state bodies and they stick religiously to who/what they know.

    I did a FÁS Business Appraisal course two years ago on an idea I had. There were different experts brought in to help and advise us. It was really easy to seperate the longterm civil servants from the very active entrepreneurs, simply by their “oooh…not liking that idea” to “hmmm….could you tweak that a bit to make it work?” attitudes.

  • Thanks Ann,

    More of a fizzle for your buck than a bang for it.

  • Thanks Brian,

    It is such a pity that in this day and age being a non-Irish business owner, who is in the process of trading and paying taxes into our economy is actively blocked from the grants that could help improve their business, possibly create more employment, simply because Irish run companies might be put out of business.

    I can understand the push to “buy Irish” in the attempt to keep employment and businesses afloat, however, not at whatever cost, hence – competiton!

    I like your analogy – Run fast and jump high

  • Pauldolan

    Good article. I would just like to add my view from the other perspective. Most networking groups whether fee based or free don’t focus on getting other people in the room business, everyone who attends is focused on talking about their own business or service and only a minority think of the other person and how they can get them business. This is human nature and business is all about getting new clients and customers, right? Groups that lock out the competition and only allow one person from a certain area of business are more than just networking meetings where everyone speeds around the room trying to offload and collect as many business cards as their pockets can carry, it is a referral generating meeting, the emphasis is on generating referrals for the people in the room. Think of a room where a networking event is been held. And in that room is a bowl, the bowl is there to fill up with business for the people coming to the event. When people enter the room, they look at the bowl and say to themselves, I am going to take business from that bowl and I will be happy. But, how does the bowl get filled if no one puts business into it. Everyone comes, the room fills up, people get talking and networking, the bowl lies empty in the middle of the room and at the end of the night everyone leaves. Some with leads, some with introductions but very few with solid referrals for business. They scratch their heads and wonder; what was the point to that. I came, spoke to 6 people I never met before, they never met me, I didn’t listen to what they did, I gave them my card and told them what I did. Why didn’t I get business? I do agree completely that not everyone will want to work with me and may prefer to do business with one of my competitors or my services may not match their needs. So, when someone is looking for a service that I don’t provide, but a competitor may. I say, well I know that Mr. C of company Y goes to this meeting and here is the number of the person that chairs that meeting, why not ring them and go along as a visitor. This way, although my competition isn’t in the room it doesn’t have to mean that someone I know hasn’t pointed a potential customer towards them. I don’t mind that, I can only educate the people I meet about what I do and hope that they do likewise.

  • Good perspective Paul. That is one “closed” network group (I think I know which one you are referring to), others have copied the basic model – without the referring business on.

    As a matter of course I attend ALL network meetings as a way of getting to know at least 3 or 4 new people, preferably people I can help in some way or other in the short term and build up a relationship with in the long term. It both stuns and disappoints me that this is not standard practice – if it were, the closed groups would be redundant and many businesses would be €€€s richer both with extra business and less membership fees.

  • Eoin Kennedy

    Hi Mairead.
    I have attended some of these groups and I can see why they have the clause but dont agree with it. Some of the business networks or referral groups charge a reasonable amount to join (some over 1K) so at first glance the non compete clause looks attractive in that part of your entry fee is justified in that you in theory become the sole recipient of referrals. Many of the other comments have pointed out the weakness here and certainly my one big lesson from social media is that with sharing more that everyone benefits. The days of the closed black book are gone.
    My other observation of these groups is that they tend to suit particular industries and services and organisations of a particular size. If you invest in the wrong one the non compete clause is largely irrelevant as the referrals are not particularly useful.
    One of the more interesting parts of this debate is that the non compete clause has always been there but its only now that its overtly stated and priced – largely due to the opening up of Irish chapter of US networks. Previously people just made it difficult to break into their groups.

  • Thanks Eoin,

    You made a very valid point, in that some companies just made it difficult to break into thier groups. Some are still sticking to this way of working. Yes, it does suit some types of industries more than others.

    The down side of the referral system is getting a client you don’t want because you are the only one there to be referred on.

    I know of 3 businesses that have membership of closed groups in 3 neighbouring counties, blocking locals from joining and will spout on about “keeping it Irish”, “supporting local business”, “being ecological” yada, yada, yada. They each do a good job, I just wonder how much better they would perform if they had to compete more for the business they do get.

  • Eoin Kennedy

    Thats true Mairead. You could be pressureised to take the business just because you are the only one there and ‘saving face’. Thankfully there is enough open groups with physical face to face meet ups on LinkedIn

  • Mags

    Great post Mairead, I am a big believer in the fact that there’s plenty of business to go around and I also wholeheartedly agree with you regarding customer ‘fit’. Thanks for the insights !

  • Anonymous


    I’ve certainly noticed the idea that one can’t be “too different” like it’s dangerous or something. And perhaps it is. Status quo gets upset. You might have to question what you thought was true.

    I recently stepped down from a board position from a networking group (I’m chuckling as it was a women’s business group) so I got to see people come and go. Sometimes I was the only coach at events and sometimes I was one of many. The thing we often forget is that there is often a pruning of business owners as people determine if a group fits their needs or if they close their businesses.

  • Lol Elli, I get that A LOT!!! “Don’t stick your head above the parapet, it might get shot off” “don’t make waves”, “blend in with the crowd” attitudes. Mine….I LIKE being different, controversial, getting people to think differently/outside the box and I’ll keep on doing it. If you don’t like it, you aren’t going to engage my services, if you do, chances are you will.

    I still come and go from some network groups and it depends on what needs it is meeting or not for me and my schedule.

  • Anonymous

    Great post Josh. It’s surprising how many websites need to be redesigned, specifically to make them Social Media friendly. I finally was able to wear my sister down and convince her to update her website, this time working with a good designer. As Niall says people try to cut corners, and either do it themselves or go with the cheapest designer.nnBest of luck with your future posts.

  • Well hello there Josh and welcome to the wonderful world of Bloggertone.nnWhat an excellent start and a blog that packs a punch! nBeing in the business myself, I’m with you alllllll the way. The user experience is key. People these days like to interact with a site, they want instant results and they’re more savvy than ever before. Websites can easily become staid and boring. A website should ideally be freshened up or redesigned every two years to pull it in-line with new techlogies and trends. A website in itself isn’t enough. It needs to support the industry, the brand and the user. nnI love the fact you mentioned ‘relevancy’. Its my theme this month and a dear one, because targeted content drives results….we’ve buried mass marketing and are cozying up with dynamic and targeted content.nnI would like to add one little thing – monitoring. Evaluation will provide all the insights you need to establish your position and performance online. Its one of the best about online, you can tract your activity.

  • Anonymous

    Great article! i know working with small e-commerce businesses here at Dydacomp many don’t realize when its time to redesign or recognize that there is even a need to ever do it. It is really important for sites to be updated with new content regularly as well as add on new features that have been proven to improve user experiences. Another thing to note is that with a number of great analytic tools out there it is important for sites to track and monitor the traffic on their site. This is a great way for them to find out ways to enhance the user experiences and improve the quality of their sites.

  • Anonymous

    I used It allows you to ask a lot of ppl what they think of your website. If you dont like the answers they give, fix it! simple as that. nnSide note-instead of spending a ton of money on a static WEBSITE, try a wordpress site WITH a static home page. nnGood luck every one!

  • Hi Josh. Welcome to Bloggertone. The Web 2.0 uplift is a really great opportunity for business to create a much more exciting and relevant web presence for their business. nnBlogging is the way to create that dynamic within a carefully constructed site but the content has to be meaningful and rich to ensure “stickiness”.nnI would also suggest that 3 clicks is almost too many now for people to get to the “relevant” material – i.e. how you engage them to make the sale. Less is more in this instance for sure and if you could aim for 1 click without it being gratuitously in-your-face selling then that would be better? What do you think?nnThanks for sharing and such an engaged first post.

  • Hi Greg, If you really understand your customer’s business, sales becomes easy.

  • Peter Watson

    Absolutely! It won’t just happen. You need to want it, and enjoy it at the same time.

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