Most people running their own businesses are small teams or solopreneurs. It can be lonely, even isolating. Staying motivated is tough when you’re the only member of your cheer squad. And let’s be honest, how many times do you feel you have to know, do and deliver on everything, yourself.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” – Ryunosuke Satoro
We are wired to connect and it is through the connections we form with others, and the way we collaborate and work together that can help take our business to new levels. Someone else may well have the missing piece you need!
Entrepreneurs who leverage the power of connections and community are the people that build businesses more swiftly and on a scale bigger than that possible on their own.
In essence collaboration is working with others – sharing skills, knowledge & resources to improve your business performance – and theirs. It gives you greater visibility, more influence and ultimately can help make a bigger impact than on your own.
You can co promote, co create and collaborate. The only limit is your ability to adopt a growth mindset and how you see possibilities for growth outside your organisation – with clients, customers, colleagues and competitors.
It’s about the power of a community and the strength of the connections you have with each other. Whatever you call it start with a shared understanding of how you want to work together and what the goals are.
Here are 5 ways you can benefit from Collaboration and apply it to your own business
1. Networking opens doors to referrals
Let’s start with one of the biggest benefits – leads. Referrals are a powerful way to contribute to your growth.
Whatever industry you are in the currency of business is relationships.
Building your network can open doors to referrals and you can help others too. A marketing expert recommends a web designer, who refers a copywriter, who refers SEO and so on. The power of the network extends beyond those people you are directly connected to; it’s about getting those people to tap into their contacts on your behalf – that’s a leveraged network.
People want to do business with those they know, like and trust.
Yet only a third of business owners go to networking events on a regular basis, which means they are missing out on potential referral partners.
Choose how you want to connect .You can join formal networking groups in your area and industry – online or offline. They might be large organised groups or smaller, less structured ones. The choice is yours.
Or if you don’t have one that suits why not form your own informal group with other likeminded business owners. Whichever routes you decide enter it with a mindset of generosity and how you can help.
2. You become more Innovative
Most small business owners do a bit of everything. You have to !
Collaborating with others gives you access to a broader set of resources and skills than you have on your own. Innovation isn’t a separate activity and sometimes you can be highly innovative but simply not aware of it.
The right connections bring a different perspective. How often do you feel stuck in the day to day doing and could do with some fresh ideas. I find there’s an energy & creativity to working with people who see things differently from you.
And once you start looking at your business with different eyes the door to innovation opens. You can apply something you learn from a different industry to your own. Something you take as a norm could be a breakthrough to someone else.
We can all learn from how somebody else does things. Take those problems we can’t see our way through. Being able to work those through with likeminded business owners who may have faced same obstacle is invaluable.
Simply put, two brains can be better than one !
One idea is to start your own informal mastermind group. There are lots of different forms you could try, in person, by phone, online – whatever works best for you. A group I’m in chats, online, once a month and the shared experiences are invaluable. We share ideas, discuss new innovations and figure out how it might apply to us. As well as providing us all with more accountability than we might have on our own.
And even better you build a trusted network of fellow professionals with skills that support your own and vice versa.
3. Increase Self-awareness
Entrepreneurs who go on to build successful and special businesses have a high degree of self awareness.
The reality is we can’t do everything ourselves, and if we fool ourselves into thinking we can, the growth we aspire to isn’t going to come easily.
Alone we get stuck in a comfort zone of our own making. We do things without really thinking about it because that’s what we have always done. Having to explain what you do to other people forces you to think about it more clearly yourself.
To grow we need to know what we are really good at and what we’re not. We need to know where we add value and which tasks could be better done by someone else. Collaborating with others helps us see blind-spots. We discover how other people do things. And we find ourselves more open to cooperating with others who complement our own strengths and weaknesses. With this greater self awareness our ability to really leverage relationships with others moves to a whole new level – as too our growth.
4. Create a better customer experience – as well as a bigger impact
Imagine a circle of like minded business owners who share the same customers but who are complementary to one another. Your product or service could be twice as impactful as part of a greater whole.
A great way to work with others is in generating leads and educating your prospective audiences. If you can identify other businesses who serve the same/similar audience as yourself you can work together to generate leads or run educational events. For the prospective customers, combined, you can give even greater value and more of an incentive for them to move to the next stage
- A gym owner collaborates with other local businesses to put on a ‘Healthy Living” event – yoga demonstrations and clothing, complementary sports massages, health food store offering free smoothies and a running store doing Run style assessments
- An accountant teaming up with other professional service providers every small business needs for a Business Health Check – practical mix of talks and information from Accountants, tax experts, financial planners, Lawyers, Funding providers
5. Co Create with your customers
Another great source of collaborative ideas is your customers.
Customers want a more personalised experience so instead of telling customers what you will provide, involve them – let them help you in making ideas, products & services better.
Engaged the right way your customers can be an amazing source of innovative new ideas.
Lego has done this well for a long time. Customers submit their own designs and if they get enough votes Lego will actually review their idea and if it goes onto to be made the creator is acknowledged as well as receive a % of sales.
Another example is Threadless, which enables designers to submit art for t-shirts plus other things. The community scores the design and the ‘best’ are printed and sold. The artist gets both a financial return for their efforts as well as exposure to a broader community.
One idea is to ‘recruit’ a small group of your most passionate customers and start to have the conversation with them using social media – for instance a private facebook group. Pose the questions and challenges you have – from promotional ideas to new products, from a new logo to the next step in customer experience. Encourage and acknowledge their involvement each step of the way.
Now to make it all happen.
Technology not only helps us to run our businesses from anywhere but it also helps us work with others anywhere in the world too. I have a copywriter I work with who’s based in New York. I work with clients all over the world. I can chat with my peers who may operate in same space but different geography. I can run projects with team members in Canada, Silicon Valley and the Philippines
There are a raft of tools which make it easy to share ideas with others and connect with people outside your business. That can be part of the battle, everyone using different tools, some in real time and some not. Starts to get messy.
I’ve recently simplified how I do things and the main tool I use now in my business to collaborate with others is actually one you may , or may not, be familiar with – Microsoft’s One Note. It’s also free!
I create separate notebooks for each of the projects I’m working on and can choose to share these with others. But what I love is being able to use it like an online white board, great for the creative collaborations I get involved in.
Collaboration plays a significant role in the growth of any business. Successful entrepreneurs embrace collaboration. They know that it’s key to their growth.
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Sarah Denby -Jones is a Business Mentor & Strategic advisor for impact driven entrepreneurs. She’s also a Microsoft SMB Ambassador helping small businesses understand how technology can help them market more effectively.
To find out how she can help you create & build a business you love – on your terms – book in for a complementary Marketing Discovery Consult . Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.