I spoke with a colleague on the phone last week.  We hadn’t talked on the phone before but found that we had a lot in common.  We both run small user research firms and both enjoy doing similar kinds of user research.  There was a brief awkward moment when the person said that their company was interested in getting involved with one particular government agency, and I immediately responded that I, in fact, was doing a small project for that same government agency.

I knew that we wouldn’t have been going after the same project, as this project was actually from a small web development firm, not directly from the government agency as my colleague had suggested.  But there was a brief pause, perhaps suggesting a moment of concern that we had been going after the same work.

In business school, we talked some about SWOT analyses – that is, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a business venture.  Specifically, what gives a business an edge over other businesses are strengths, what disadvantage a firm are weaknesses, what external opportunities exist are opportunities and what external threats can cause trouble are threats.

I’ve never done a formal SWOT analysis of Lebsontech, and I don’t think much about competitors.  My colleagues have been a source of opportunity for me and I rarely, if ever, find myself competing with anyone for work.   Work either comes to me or it doesn’t – if it doesn’t, so be it; there is other work out there.

Usability was also listed as one of the US News & World Report’s top careers for 2008 and 2009.  Although it didn’t make the 2010 list, it is pretty clear that the demand for usability is greater than the existing supply.  In other words, there is enough work to go around for each in his or her particular area of interest.

And it’s a nice feeling to be surrounded by colleagues, not competitors.

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