2016 has been one fulfilling year in terms of learning from business collaboarations and coming into reality with the business environment. Part of this fulfillment is the ability to share all these learnings with those who are thinking of starting their own business journey. Starting your own business is a thrilling process that is overwhelming at times. New comers in the business landscape are faced with large number of decisions before hitting the ground running. bigger part of these decisions are not limited to segmentation and targeting, market developments and getting closer to the target market, Finance, creating networks, building effective teams etc. The owner is further faced with dealing with internal structure of the business, making sure that all is in place while trying to run his business. Most of these activities are done from a silo mentality by the owner. This is probably not the best option for those who have not experienced the value of effective collaboration with other businesses.
As a small and less resourced business, I found myself doing more and more of everything, swamped with lots of activities i should not be spending time doing. When an opportunity to collaborate came through, i thought that would lessen some of my painful areas. I jumped into the opportunity and neglected the basic fundamentals of collaboration.
There are number of benefits for small and start-up companies to enter into collaborations with more established companies. These benefits are not limited to:
- The tremendous accelerated growth of both the owner and the business.
- Business people turn to learn a great deal of knowledge and the know how from established companies.
- This know how spreads from business processes to market development , customer base building and any other critical aspects of the business that are crucial to your success.
- acknowledging strengths and developmental areas, and ask for help when necessary. help is always at an arm’s length when required.
- A platform to combine resources and solve customer and business problems more effectively with well resource businesses
There are however some dark and blind spots in this process that you need to be aware of, not everyone is in it for a common goal. Be cautious of these;
- Choose your collaborators wisely – Ensure that you take the time to choose companies or people you want to collaborate with. Understand more about your potential collaborator and the value you seek from them as well as the value you want to give.
- Be careful of collaborating with people whose competencies and skills are not clear. Never jump into a relationship with someone without spending time in establishing their core skill,value and how they are planning to work with you, especially if its individuals and companies that are similar to your situation.
- Also note that people have their intentions when in comes to collaborations. Pay extra care into some strange behaviours that are developing during this process and engage them immediately.
- Make a collaboration a strategic element – New owners wake up and decide to enter into collaborations or business alliances without addressing the “why” and “how”. Ensure that you have strategic reasons as to why you want a part of your business to be involved in collaborations.
- Don’t just expect value, also give value – I have come across people asking to collaborate and end up being value takers instead of reciprocity. This is a bad practice and should be avoided at all costs if your intention is to grow in business.
- Make your intentions clear – Let your collaborator know exactly what you want to achieve from the collaboration. Expect the same from people you are collaborating with. Be upfront about your intentions and avoid surprising your potential collaborators with practices that are not in line with their business.
- Act with integrity and be honest – This is one element you should practice in any business or personal dealings. Practice honesty all the time, especially in a relationship that is trying to accelerate your business to the next level. Most incoming businesses lose this aspect and focus on quick material gains and forget the long-term and a bigger picture.
- Say ‘No’ – Never be afraid to say “No” to someone or a business if you are not comfortable with either the person or the proposal. You will always find those who will take advantage of you and want to swing money out of you. be careful of such people and say “NO” if you come across such situations.
The next time you seek to collaborate with a potential company, ensure that you have prepared yourself and know exactly what you want from the collaboration. also Remember that:
- An effective business collaboration is a relationship of business reciprocity, it is not a one way street. Know how will you play a role in that relationship.
- Business collaboration is like any other relationship. it requires time, effort and commitment for it to succeed.
- Customers are a crucial asset of any business. they are constantly protected from the competition or anything that threatens them. Respect these customers if you are given a privilege to access them. they are not yours, they belong to your collaborator.
- There is no business that will open its doors to you to have free access to its customers. It costs Businesses resources and effort to acquire customers. Be honest to the collaboration and don’t poach customers, it’s not worth it.
- You will get rejections and empty promises in most instances, celebrate those and move to other well receptive opportunities
Collaboration is not just an exercise that a business should find itself in, it is an imperative strategic element that should be planned, performed consciously by the business owner. Once done effectively, it can make wonders for you and your business in future.