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Fences, cooperation and respect make good competitors

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Not every business has the luxury of its own workspace, far from the eyes of its competitors. Sometimes, your competitor is staring at you from across the room, or maybe just within earshot around the corner.

That's because some businesses and professionals share a workspace with their competitors, usually because it's a cost-effective way for them to operate.

But it doesn't mean a cold war should break out over pencils, staplers and filing space. Sharing a workspace can be managed civilly and be beneficial, businesses said.

"Cooperative and beneficial" is how Dave Shiley would describe working across the room from his competitor. Shiley is the owner of a tax consultancy called Income Tax Preparation in the Lancaster coworking space The Candy Factory. Across the room is Ryan Schultz, an accountant who owns the firm Four 16.

Technically, they should be at each other's throats for business, but that's not the case, Shiley said.

"We collaborate, because no one knows all the tax laws," he said. "There's a high level of trust."

The two consultants don't share client information unless a client has approved it, and they make sure records are secure, Shiley said. But from time to time, they consult each other to review laws and the best ways to help their clients.

Shiley has been at the Candy Factory for three years, and there's never been a problem with competitors working next to each other. The coworking space not only hosts two financial consultants, but it also hosts multiple photographers and e-commerce developers. They should be vying for every potential client that comes in the door, but again, that's not the case.

"Just like Ryan and I, a photographer might be overloaded that day, so they'll put it out there to say, who can help me?" Shiley said.

In other environments, there might be less direct cooperation, but a company can still make it work. Like some neighbors, maybe it just takes the right fencing.

"Each of the newsrooms will have their own space separated by big walls," said Sara Glines, president of York Newspaper Co., which handles the business operations of the competing news outlets York Dispatch and the York Daily Record. Glines is also the Daily Record's publisher.

York Newspaper is in the process of selling its office buildings and consolidating staff into select locations to save money. The two newspapers will share the Daily Record office in West Manchester Township when the Dispatch moves out of its York offices. Renovations are underway and the move is expected to be finalized in October, Glines said.

"Our company is trying to get out of the real estate business," she said.

The company put its offices up for sale last year, including the Lebanon Daily News and the Chambersburg Public Opinion offices.

Aside from some strategic fencing, there are other things that competitors working in the same office can do to keep the peace, she said. For starters, it's the same ethic you would use toward someone in your own organization: Be respectful of their space, their personal items and their work.

"You have to acknowledge that there are two very different cultures, so you have to be respectful," Glines said.

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