Very often people despise their competitors. They say bad things about them and find ways to make prospects uneasy about doing business with the other firm . They wish evil to fall upon the lives of those with whom they compete. I knew one guy who would arrive early at networking events and tear up his competitor's nametags and at trade shows he would steal brochures when booths were left unattended. YIKES. If you are spending that much time thinking about your competition, maybe you need to refocus and spend more time promoting your own company. (AKA, get a life!!!)
When you and your competitors are hard working and ethical, with good products and services, having positive relations with them will lead to you being able to create an "eco-system" inside your field of expertise. All industries have some bad apples, but when the good businesses band together, you can push aside those that lack proper character.
I have found that knowing the individuals who work at competitive firms is a good thing. It is always advantageous to have a "face with the name", and most of the time these are very cool people who can become your friends. Just because you compete for business does not mean they can't join you for a beer after hours.
Having friends in your industry is also good when you go to look for a new job. I know one guy who is highly respected in his industry and has twice been recruited to higher paying jobs by people he has gotten to know at competitive companies.
Likewise, if you need to recruit good talent to your company, you will already know who are the best of breed.
And don't forget, competition can sometimes give you business!!! What? It is true. Very often one company who competes in one product line will partner with the competition in another area where the two can be mutually beneficial. By not having good relationships with those in other firms, you might just be leaving money on the table (I hate to leave money on the table).
I even know a married couple who used to sell semiconductor equipment for rival companies. The man had always heard from his clients that his competitor was a "knock out" and that she was going to take all his business (good product and she was hot....that was hard for him to beat). When he met her, she took his heart. I am convinced he married her to stop her from selling against him!!!
Finally, I know that George W. Bush and John Kerry were never seen fishing together at a secluded lake near Crawford, Texas during the 2004 presidential campaign (Karl Rove would never had allowed that to happen).... but maybe if they had been friendly competitors more Americans would not hate the political process!!! Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill used to knock back a cold one from time to time after the business on Capital Hill had adjourned for the day.
Spend your time making people your friends rather than tearing up their nametags. You will be more successful and have much better karma!!!
Have A Great Day.