This is the seventh of a new series of articles – positive mindsets for a positive future. Over the next few weeks I will explore some of the most frequent questions I get asked as a business coach and focus on both the challenges and opportunities each one presents.
No-one starts their own business thinking it will be easy. There will be many challenges along the way. Very often the difference between business success and failure will depend entirely on how you approach those challenges and reframe them into opportunities.
Today my focus is another topic that leads to lots of questions and comments – the need to collaborate with others.
Two heads are always better than one.
Running a small business, especially for the first time, can be a lonely and isolating experience. There are so many things to learn and so much to do. For many new small business owners they are also trying to work elsewhere in order to bring in money while their business venture gets of the ground.
A major challenge is how can we collaborate with others and retain our own uniqueness and identity? If we don’t collaborate we will almost certainly be reinventing the wheel and learning the hard way. If we do collaborate then maybe we run the risk of losing our good ideas to someone else.
There are many forms of collaboration. We may join a networking group where the purpose is to share ideas and try and trade with each other. We might approach other businesses with a view to joining forces for a one-off project or as a full blown partnership.
Whatever form of collaboration we might be thinking about we must be clear as to why we want to go this route. Are there other options? Can I learn the skills I need myself? Will collaborating with others help me achieve my goals faster and more profitably? Who should I collaborate with? For example a group of different businesses working together in a shopping area or street could collaborate on joint marketing or special promotions. Could I add value to what I produce or sell by collaborating with others? Will I lose my identity if I work with other people? Am I putting effort into competing with someone when I could more profitably work with them?
There are a lot of questions to ask that need answers. Take your time to enter into a collaborative relationship. Find out as much as you can about your prospective ‘partner’. Talk it through with friends and associates. Perhaps give it a try – collaborate on a single project to see if it works before making any bigger commitment. Collaboration could include a range of relationships from something very informal to a formal partnership or working arrangement.
Whatever you do has to work for you, your business and your customers. Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce or business organisation as the first step – there you might meet people of like mind that you could work with. Clusters are a great form of collaboration – businesses doing similar things working together to share costs, add value and provide badly needed support for each other. Get involved with your local innovation centre if you have one. If you can, go online and find out what is available. You might be able to collaborate with someone in another part of the Pacific or even the world!
However we cannot ignore the businesses around us – they probably are not ignoring us! There is nothing to lose by exploring possible ways to work together – enter into no arrangement or firm commitment until you are sure it will be in your best interests and in the best interests of your customers.
Start your journey to collaboration by networking with others – go to business gatherings or meetings, talk to others, listen and learn. If you have a mentor or coach, discuss with him/ her about the merits and dangers of collaboration and explore how you could make the relationship work for you. Take your time and you may find a relationship that will revolutionise the profitability of both businesses.
If you need help with collaboration or you want some feedback on your own practices, then please get in touch.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. As always, please contact me if you have an interesting story to tell and are happy for it to be told. More challenges and opportunities next week.
Breadfruit Consulting (www.breadfruitconsulting.com) is a Vanuatu-based business providing advice, training, coaching, and mentoring to businesses throughout the Pacific islands. Breadfruit specialises in a range of business development activities including ‘business continuity planning and action’, helping businesses to survive in a crisis, designing and starting new, sustainable businesses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Founding partner at Breadfruit Consulting.