Friendly versus ruthless rivalries

Mickey Mellen
3 min readSep 6, 2021

There are many kinds of rivalries in the world, from business to athletics to “yard of the month”, and they can be a good thing. In a recent episode of the WorkLife podcast, host Adam Grant gave the example of Ohio State and Michigan in football — when one succeeds, as Ohio State has been doing recently, it pushes the other to be better. They offer some great stats to help support that.

When it comes to rivalries, there are essentially two kinds: friendly and ruthless.

Friendly Rivalries

I’m a big fan of friendly rivalries, as that’s essentially what our Meetup is all about. It’s a room full of our competition, coming to get ideas from us and then share their ideas with us. While digital marketing is technically a zero-sum game, it’s really not, as there’s plenty of work to go around.

Folks like Brad, Aaron, Kathy, Diana, and dozens of others are sometimes direct rivals with us, but we’ve all gained more from one another over the last decade than can be put into words. Friendly rivalries like that can be absolutely amazing.

Ruthless Rivalries

Inside of the WordPress community, friendly rivalries like that are very common. I’ve found that inside the rest of the digital marketing space (outside of WordPress), things aren’t as pleasant. Two examples come to mind:

The local firm:
We’ve been in our current studio for about nine years ago, and another marketing firm is a few buildings over. We’re friendly with them, but there’s a weird wall in our relationship. Best I can tell, we compliment each other’s services very well, and there have been a number of times over the years where I thought they’d be the best solution to solve an issue for clients of ours.

The problem is, I’m not sure. I’ve tried repeatedly to grab lunch with them or otherwise simply better understand what they do, and they have no desire to do so. I suspect they only see us as a rival and want to keep some distance.

I can respect that view, but I think it’s cost both of us some revenue over the years.

The business connection:
A few years ago I was at a business luncheon, talking with a gentleman there. As we discussed what we do, and we realized that we were both in digital marketing, our reactions were complete opposites: I wanted to learn more and try to connect, and he uttered something like “well then you’re not going to buy from me” and he bolted. It was very strange.

Rivalries in sports are often ruthless, and I think that’s part of what makes them fun. In business, though, they don’t have to be and the more you can befriend your competition, the better off you’ll all be.

Originally published at on September 6, 2021.



Mickey Mellen

I’m a cofounder of @GreenMellen, and I’m into WordPress, blogging and seo. Love my two girls, gadgets, Google Earth, and I try to run when I can.