Collaboration is a powerful tool for the small business owner and self-employed sole trader. Not only does collaborating with someone or another business provide some often very welcome contact with people outside your own business bubble, but it can also help you fast-track growth and be more successful.
If you've never considered instigating a collaboration, or you're not sure how it could work in your small business, read on to be inspired!
1. Collaboration gives you a different perspective
It's easy to get stuck in a rut when you work for yourself, especially if it's just you. Collaborating with someone else can give you a different perspective and inspiration. It might be that they show you a more effective way of doing a task, or help you find a better approach to a problem.
A collaborative relationship also provides a chance to discuss ideas, share inspiration and brainstorm with someone who's not 'in' your business. This can help trigger your creatively and help you think and see things in a different way.
2. Collaboration grows your network
The average person knows about 600 other people so by collaborating with someone else you can potentially tap into a network of new contacts. Of course, not everyone in your, or your collaborator's, social sphere will help you grow your small business, but many will. They may know other entrepreneurs who might present new collaborative opportunities, people who can help in other ways such as suppliers or contractors, potential customers or social / industry influencers who can help you get more exposure for your business.
3. Collaboration and Co-Opetition
Co-Opetition is an interesting concept. This is where businesses join together to co-promote each other's services or products. A good example of this is where a hairdresser teams up with a nail bar to target the same audience with their services. They might co-produce marketing content or run a joint loyalty scheme. Or simply recommend each other's service to their clients.
4. Collaboration can save money
Co-producing marketing content, as in the example above, can reduce costs for your business. But there are other ways collaborating can save money or make certain activities more affordable for a small business owner. For example, you might consider sharing space at a trade show with another business to reduce costs and increase your purchasing power.
If you collaborate with someone to bring a new service or product to market, you'll need to come to an arrangement to split overheads. This might involve sharing some costs 50/50, or using in-house capabilities for some activities shared between your businesses. Either way, the cost to market for you as an individual should be lower than if you did it alone.
5. Collaboration increases your expertise
Finally, an important way collaboration has helped my business is that it's helped me access skills and knowledge I don't have in-house. Through collaborating with other businesses I've got the benefits of their experience growing a business. This has given me valuable insights and best practice that has informed my business strategy; particularly when those businesses are a few steps ahead on their growth trajectory.
I'll be sharing some of my collaboration stories at the SiGNAL BiZHUB on Friday 10th July. This session aims to inspire you to find ways of collaborating with other small businesses so you can grow together.