I recently had an experience with a Copycat that inspired me to share a blog about it. I have always preached collaboration and not competition and I always encourage others in the same sector to not fear each other. So recent events made be analyse this up close and put my own advice into practice! This is what happened:
I welcomed a new member into the SMBN to help ‘her’ build ‘her’ business. Immediately on welcoming her I spent a lot of time on PR to set her up and welcome her, no doubt you will all appreciate this value is a lot more than £5! I then trusted her to act as a County Coordinator and host the meetings in her County, and I could not have made it clearer that the SMBN was ‘one’ community with ‘one’ UK business group, it is a distinct advantage for a member to benefit from discounts, PR opportunities, support and comradeship from within the UK group… all of the other Coordinators got it.
My huge error? assuming she was an ethical women in business., and so when, after I had said that the other Coordinators had general groups for Single Mums but not business as that was for the SMBN, and she asked then if setting up Single Mums in Business was a no-no – instead of saying ‘obviously!’ – I legally answered ‘Nothing to stop you doing that … It’s a tough one. Respectfully I’m trying to set up one strong community but you all do what you want x’ by which I trusted she would respect and have the intelligence to understand what I was saying – I hoped that she would want to do the right thing!
What happened next? She set-up as Owner and Founder of Single Mum in Business! To which I said I wasn’t happy and I’d call the next day to chat. I understand misunderstandings and so I was intending to say that I should have been clear(er) and said that that would go against what the SMBN is about, I checked her page before calling and could see that she had set up a page as ‘Owner and Founder’ of Single Mums in Business AND a closed group for her members. I wasn’t best pleased with the terminology ‘Owner and Founder’ and the closed group as well as the page but I was still prepared to talk, but instead I was yelled at for ten minutes about how much time she had spent on ‘branding’ etc. I could not get a word in and so I said ‘clearly this isn’t going well I will refund your £5 and let’s go our seperate ways’ at which point she hung up on me. I then removed her.
That’s all fine, no real drama, a misunderstanding and a seperation of ways, I had to explain that the SMBN is a single network, not a networking franchise! but what she did then was to publicly announce that she was extending Single Mums in Business to the entire UK, clearly as an aggressive response. My issue with this was that after a lot of time, effort and money to bring Single Mums in Business together to help them all gain more exposure, she had the audacity to call herself a founder when blatantly, instead of letting me help her grow ‘her‘ business, she decided that mine was more attractive and she would take /copy it. Not only affecting me, but also her ‘friend’ who introduced her, that isn’t sisterly or ethical, and it’s certainly not how I am used to women in business behaving towards each other.
But alas, the important part! How to deal with that….
When somebody copies your business model after you have tried to help them of course that is upsetting, and whilst for 5 minutes I tried to shrug it off, I quickly realised that it was okay to be sad and disheartened and to feel sick that sombody could stab you in the back like that, fortunately I have carried wounds with me in the past that I have learned to heal, so I knew that I needed to accept that emotion and process. And as a couple of days were lost with all consuming sadness and frustration, that is all that was lost, and thereafter I knew to turn back to my network, and let them help me heal, and let them advise me and remind me that my work was ethical and real and built out of integrity and my own ideas, and so I healed.
I was then able to move to the next stage which was to listen to the advice I give others – ‘collaborate don’t compete’ ‘competition is healthy’. Now whilst I have no intention of collaborating with her because of how she started it, I know that it does not hurt to have a couple of networks for Single Mums in Business out there (and if you are one I am happy to let my network know about you). If anything she is helping to raise profile that there are such networks! I always knew that this would take off in other areas, that is the price you pay for a great idea, I just didn’t expect it to be done in such a spiteful way.
So to that end, I am not going to give her or the situation any more physical or emotional energy, my time and mind is back it where it should be helping my members gain exposure and I have bigger fish to fry. My only concern was that she would go on to pretend to help other Single Mums in Business and then decide to steal their ideas too, and I don’t want to be accidently associated with that, or spamming or whatever she might do as an inherently unethical person.
So if you see another network for Single Mums in Business, know that it might not be mine! And if somebody copies your business, go with the emotion, it’s okay that it hurts, but don’t let it consume you either, let your amazing network support you, and remember, there is enough work for everyone, and if somebody is raising the profile of your profession, that’s not always a bad thing. Move on with a happy heart and a clear conscience that you didn’t start your business out of malice. My final stage of healing is this blog so that I do not have to go over it in my head for another moment. I have members that need my attention!
The good of the situation was the evident intelligence of my other Coordinators and the amazing support that followed. I realised that despite leading the SMBN, it’s okay to let them look out for me too, which they did brilliantly, and I am very proud of the current team, members, and my wider network.