"In order to compete in modern markets, competitors sometimes need to collaborate. Competitive forces are driving firms toward complex collaborations to achieve goals such as expanding into foreign markets, funding expensive innovation efforts, and lowering production and other costs.
In today's marketplace, competitors interact in many ways, through trade associations, professional groups, joint ventures, standard-setting organizations, and other industry groups. Such dealings often are not only competitively benign but procompetitive."But wait, there is more:
"But there are antitrust risks when competitors interact to such a degree that they are no longer acting independently, or when collaborating gives competitors the ability to wield market power together." (Emphasis added.)And finally, as if to emphasize the phrase I've highlighted in bold text:
"Any company may, on its own, refuse to do business with another firm, but an agreement among competitors not to do business with targeted individuals or businesses may be an illegal boycott, especially if the group of competitors working together has market power."(Again, emphasis is mine, in bold.)
The lesson from these statements is that startups and smaller companies have plenty of room to use their modest power to survive and then establish a foothold in a market. Once companies become established and arguably dominant, whether individually or collectively, that is a different story altogether.
There is plenty of maneuverability for young companies and smaller companies which do not have "market power" and thus need the protection of numbers from other "players" with common interests. This is where the affinity of shared interests, and of shared values, economic and otherwise, can be critical in establishing loyalty among customers, vendors and even some other market participants whose leaders recognize that today's competitor may be tomorrow's joint venturer.
The message: Affinities based on shared interests and shared values can be very useful to an up-and-coming business. One key is learning to recognize the affinities. The second key is to use them.