How we do business today is heading in a whole new direction. Have you noticed?
Words like soulful, heart-centred, customer centric, real, authentic and emotional are commonly seen in blogs, courses and articles directed at today’s business owner.
And thank goodness for that!
So it makes sense that our way of doing business and thinking about business would be and should be changing and evolving.
Adopting a creative mindset and looking at things from a different angle will help you look for opportunities such as collaborating that you never would have previously.
Avoid the old business mindsets and perceptions that businesses are all in competition for customers. It is just a limiting belief that we have adopted from business done in times gone. Create a new path for yourself.
Collaboration vs Competition
One of the main areas of change I see that can make a big difference to your success in this new business direction is collaboration.
No longer should we be seeing our competition or our fellow business owners as the enemy.
If you take a look at your most inspiringly successful competitors or business owners that you admire, I would be confident that they are in some sort of collaboration, or even a number of them.
The reasons you should collaborate & the benefits of collaborating
The most obvious reason you should collaborate is business should support business. It’s just the right thing to do.
Being a business owner is a hard gig. It takes strength, determination, focus, consistency, hard work and obviously much more!
Being able to support others, and have a fellow comrade when things are good and bad is a wonderful thing for business owners who often are not able to share their successes and failures.
Some of the benefits of collaborating include:
· a wider reach for your product or service, both for you and your collaborator
· a shared mission to achieve whatever your goal is with the collaboration
· support and a sense of community in being able to work with someone else in your business, without bringing on a business partner
· a sense of goodwill and all the feel goods that come with helping others
The negatives that comes with focusing on your ‘competition’
Focusing too much on thinking of your fellow business owners as competition creates negativity, and a lack of compassion and respect for the shared struggles of being a business owner.
The fact is today there are so many ways people can find and choose a business to buy from, that your best bet is really to focus on being the best supplier of your product or service that you can be. There is enough business for everyone, and your ideal audience is out there for you. Focus on finding them, not on your competition.
How to find someone to collaborate with
So how do you find someone to collaborate with?
There are 2 main considerations here – finding a collaborator, and making it work.
Finding a Collaborator:
· Get out and network, build relationships. Get in touch with people in your area that seem to be aligned and have similar values in business. Attend business lunches. Invite people out for coffee and chat.
· People love to help people (generally). Today consumers expect some value for free, when they are buying a product or service. Collaborations are the same. Start by providing some value. If you connect with people and genuinely share your knowledge and experience for free, collaborations can happen organically. Ideas and ways of working together will naturally appear. Keep your eyes and minds open to opportunity.
· Seek out your competitors, or people who do similar work to you. Many small businesses have gaps in their services or need help to get to that next level of business. Your business may be just the help they need. Reach out to them, meet up with them. Share war stories. If nothing else, you may just find a new friend!
· Join some online groups – Facebook and LinkedIn are the most obvious social media platforms for this. Consider groups that either align with your type of product/service or are location based groups in your area. Communicate and connect with others in your groups. Be helpful, ask and answer questions, share value. Reach out directly and talk to people who seem to align with you and your business. As in the above point, it is important to keep your eyes and minds open to opportunity.
· A not often possible option for collaboration but still worth mentioning is paying for an influencer to promote your product/service. This requires good planning and alignment so your hard earnt dollars are not wasted.
Making it Work:
While it’s not essential that you have something written in place when you enter into a collaboration, it is recommended. Especially when money is involved like commissions, share of profits generated etc.
But before you even get to the agreement stage, there are a few questions to ask yourself:
· Do you feel good about the collaboration? Learn to listen to your intuition. Butterflies is good. A sick feeling or knots and tightness anywhere not so good.
· Are you getting enough out of it that you feel comfortable? It should not be a ‘one sided’ collaboration (even in the scenario where you are paying an influencer to collaborate with you)
· Do your business values align with your collaborator? Eg if you are an eco-friendly business, you wouldn’t collaborate with a company that has no interest in eco-friendly products.
· Do you have clarity on how the collaboration will work, from both sides? Your reputation as well as the collaborators is important here. The easiest way to derail any collaboration is by confusion and not knowing who is responsible for what. If you are working with someone who does not value or provide this clarity, then it may not be a good collaboration for you.
If you feel isolated as a business owner, like you could use a little help or you just want to take your business to the next level, it’s time to consider collaborating.
Just make sure you keep an open mind, with no judgement and be open to possibilities. Work on breaking down the barriers of competition.
Embrace collaboration and enjoy the positivity it will bring into your business world.
This article was written by Sonja Balzarolo - a Business Creativity Coach for small business owners. In her work, Sonja focuses on helping business owners find their ‘uniquely you’ identity, tap into their creativity and bring their ideas to life through coaching and workshops.