I need to free up my time so whats the best way to collaborate
Did Apple invent the IPhone? Of course, but only by collaborating with dozens of partner companies around the globe.
Some of the greatest technological advances taking shape at this moment, are happening in Universities, who are working in conjunction with commercial ventures of all sizes. Collaborative working is a trademark of successful companies – large and small.
There’s strength in numbers and one of the best ways a small business can increase its force is to find appropriate joint ventures. This is particularly true for start-ups, who are exposed and vulnerable in those crucial first months. Having people around you to provide support and a sounding board can be a lifesaver.
This is not the same as letting people invest cash or skills in your business, and therefore losing control of part of your precious enterprise. Collaboration works best when it is “mutual back scratching.” For example, the university provides manpower and skills to research your project, and you provide the students with real life work experience and a cv boost.
Most regional areas have business mentoring initiatives to support and unite both new and developing enterprises. However, the clear majority of the emphasis and funding is geared towards business-to-business organisations. If you sell direct to the public, such as a shop, you will be outside the criteria.
To find collaborations on your own, local business networking groups can be valuable. Don’t just see them as a place to sell and eat a hot breakfast and don’t be put off if they seem to attract a lot of similar ventures to your own. This could be the place to create affinity partnerships. Many High-Street banks, universities and government-funded schemes provide free networking opportunities.
Sometimes the direct approach is best. Find a non-competitive business that has similarities such as the same target market then set up a meeting to brainstorm.
The sort of collaborative working that can boost your sales and reduce costs include joint marketing projects, co-sponsoring events and working together to create webinars.
Behind the scenes, you could pool your skills and help each other out when under pressure. It could be you can even recruit staff which are shared across both enterprises, if that is clear in the job description!
Supply chain collaboration is also an excellent way of supporting each other, and forming buying partnerships creates economies of scale. You could even share travel expenses and hotel bills for sales missions or attending key conferences. Every little helps!
One of the ways small businesses can piggyback on collaborative working is to promote your products and services via aggregators, websites and organisations which market a wide range of things on behalf of others. Examples include www.notonthehighstreet.com and www.comparethemarket.com.
Clearly these organisations take fees and commissions, so you would be advised to check the terms very thoroughly before taking this route. However, for small local enterprise, it can open national or even international opportunities with very little work involved.
It all comes down to be open to new ideas and being willing to take time out of your enterprise to invest in partnerships. It’s sometimes the long game in achieving payback, but having a commercial friend can make business ownership a great deal less stressful and isolating.