Everyone has heard the adages “No man is an island,” and “United we stand, divided we fall.” These sayings reinforce the value of collaboration, and should resonate clearly with business owners. Collaborating allows entrepreneurs to maximize the knowledge and expertise of others and gain essential feedback in their drive for results.
In my book Fearless Living: 8 Life-Changing Values for Breakthrough Success, I discuss the many advantages of collaborating and explain how to get the most out of our interactions with others.
Collaboration means different things to different types of business owners, but the first steps are to 1) identify skill sets that the business lacks, and 2) assess an individual’s potential contributions from their personal and professional circles of influence.
Here are the five key approaches to adding strategic partnerships to your business plan:
- Who You Know: Make a written list of everyone you interact with, whether it’s a fellow PTA parent, former business colleague, social media contact, relative or friend.
- What They Know: Next to their names, add what their strengths are, either in business or socially, such as communicating, handling finances, graphic arts, giving advice and honest feedback or specific subject knowledge.
- Why You Need Them: Look at your business plan and determine areas where you have knowledge gaps or could benefit from information, insights or feedback from others.
- Where They Fit In: Identify roles each of your potential collaborators would play based on the potential value they could bring to your business.
- When to Call on Them: The last step is the most complicated. As an entrepreneur, knowing at which point you need to bring someone else on board as a collaborator is often its own step-by-step process. Too many collaborators, at the same time or the wrong time, either too soon or too late, can be counterproductive.
One simple example that demonstrates how collaborating can bring tangible rewards is the process of creating a flyer (either for print or online) – something most businesses need to accomplish at some point in their growth plan. For example:
- The first person you might approach would be a financial advisor who can look at your budget and help you decide how much to spend on the ad.
- The next collaborator you’d seek would be someone with copywriting skills.
- Next, you would consult with a graphic artist to make the words come to life.
- Once you have the piece written and designed, you would find a reputable print shop or research the appropriate web outlet or social media platform with experts to help you execute your ad according to the design and objectives you and your team collaborated on.
Any plan to collaborate should flow back to the objective of the overall business plan. In the example of creating an ad, the goal would be to get new customers. Keep in mind that the business owner is always the leader of any collaborative team and is ultimately accountable for results. Remember, the best collaborators are the people in your life who will contribute, share your objective and help produce results.