Business Isn’t a Zero Sum Game

A zero-sum game, in game theory and economic theory, is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s).

This assumes that everything is finite and limited; each time someone “wins”, then someone must also “lose”. It’s also a quite a sad outlook and couldn’t be further from the truth in our local business environment and our local communities.

Here’s the thing: business isn’t a zero sum game. Working together in a collaborative manner, rather than a competitive manner, creates the opportunity for each participant to gain.

This fall kicks off the Third Annual Vail Beaver Creek Restaurant Week (September 25th – October 4th). With participating restaurants spanning across both Vail and Beaver Creek, the event is a culinary celebration and takes community collaboration to new levels. The ten day long event features a wide variety of prix fixe menus and specials all set at $20.15 and all showcasing the incredible and diverse culinary offerings available throughout the Vail and Beaver Creek Villages. It’s a great example of how a competitive industry can partner together, across municipal boundaries, to create an engaging and creative event, which should result in increased business for all participants.

Eagle County Gives is another prime example of the benefit of collaboration, not competition. Founded in 2010, Eagle County Gives is a coalition of 40 Vail Valley nonprofits dedicated to strengthening the collaboration, fundraising capacity and awareness of the non-profit sector that enhances the quality of life in Eagle County. This group works together to increase the awareness of their collective impact and have banded together to increase total local donations on Colorado Gives Day and year-round. These non-profit leaders recognize the importance of community giving and having a consistent message. They share best practices, and they work together to create a stronger non-profit community.

Similarly, membership and participation in different groups isn’t a zero sum game. Consider the Vail Valley Merchant Alliance, a program consisting of various chamber, merchant groups, and professional associations throughout the valley.

The Vail Valley Merchant Alliance is a collaborative effort led by Vail Valley Partnership that seeks to add value to the business community by developing a structured relationship between the Partnership and individual merchant groups. It creates a Valley-wide voice and opportunity for input for the participating merchant communities. In addition, the Partnership hosts joint networking and educational programs with participating associations.

This group was formed in 2008 as leadership from various chamber and associated groups recognized that we were, in fact, not tied to a historic zero-sum mentality and that each group was respectively stronger when we worked together to identify needs throughout the valley that each group could focus on. We meet quarterly to review and discuss business trends and various activities that each group is doing on behalf of their constituents, and we pledge to cross-promote each other’s events and programs.

Don’t miss our All-Chamber Mixer on October 8 at the Eagle County Regional Airport. Special thanks to the Avon Business Association, Beaver Creek Merchant Association, Colorado Mountain College, Eagle Chamber, EagleVail Business Association, Eagle Valley Homebuilders Association, Edwards Riverwalk Association, Gypsum Chamber of Commerce, Lionshead Merchant Association, Minturn-Red Cliff Business Association, Vail Board of Realtors, Vail Chamber & Business Association, and Vail Valley Partnership for recognizing that by working together to avoid duplication of efforts, we can avoid a zero-sum game with winners and losers and can instead working together for the greater good.

Our restaurant community, our non-profit community, and our chamber groups have all recognized that business in the Vail Valley isn’t a zero-sum game. These groups continue to collaborate, recognizing that competing against each other (for giving, for guests, or for memberships) isn’t a pathway to success. Kudos and congratulations to all seemingly (and historic) competitive groups across various industries in our valley who recognize that working together is mutually beneficial and that working against each other is mutually destructive.

We are stronger when we work together. We’re better when we collaborate than when we compete. Doing business in our valley is not an “either/or” – that’s a sad viewpoint and one that should be eliminated from our local vernacular. It’s an unhealthy attitude and a mentality that frankly doesn’t benefit our community, our visitors, or our businesses.

Vail/Beaver Creek Restaurant Week, Eagle County Gives, and Vail Valley Merchant Alliance are all great examples of how seemingly competitive groups can work together to create even more value and benefit for their stakeholders – not at the expense of each other, but for mutual benefit.

Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership