Business Tips from SCORE: Collaboration is all about building relationships

Marc L. GoldbergMarc L. Goldberg


Small business is all about competing in challenging environments. It’s doing business in the shadow of the “big box” stores as well as the neighborhood competitor. While competition is unavoidable, there are also endless opportunities to collaborate with other businesses in order to diversify your audience, reach new customers, and improve your products or services.

But first, what does it mean to collaborate with another small business?

According to Sharita M. Humphrey, “It refers to organizations working together to solve problems and achieve goals that seem to be out of reach when working alone. By combining the expertise, perspectives and skills of different people and organizations, all parties involved are better able to innovate and grow.”

When small businesses combine their physical (equipment, facilities and/or raw materials), human (employment, employees, skills and knowledge) and intellectual capital (combine knowledge and skills) you and your collaborators can reduce costs, expand reach and find new sources of revenue. So, change your approach to going it alone to developing a culture of collaboration.

You and your collaborators can each achieve growth by combining knowledge to achieve greater customer reach. As a small business, it is difficult to compete against larger entities but combined with others your reach can compete more effectively and efficiently. By combining efforts with others you can expand your network. You can develop a broader network collectively than you can individually. Successful small businesses can form alliances outside their own network and they can grow their businesses. How? ”There are more hands on deck.”

Time is a small business owner’s toughest competitor. Humphrey advises, “When you collaborate with others, then it makes it possible to get more done together than individually.”

When you join forces with others, innovation is possible. When a variety of skills, knowledge, experiences and ideas are brought, they are brought to the table of creativity. Diversity, which drives positive growth and collaboration, is the beginning.

When there is cooperation, the life cycle of bringing products to market is shorter since one partner might be the developer, one might be the producer and one partner might be the sales channel. Collaboration brings together the resources and skills of various players to gain positive results. To do this small businesses need to share knowledge and learn from one another. When this happens positive results are generated beyond the ability of one to do it alone.

Collaboration allows you to take advantage of the skills and expertise of others — and share your own. Not only can innovation occur, but problems can be solved. When two or more small businesses bring their skills and experiences to an issue, it gets solved rather than just “kicking it down the road”, which may happen when a solo operator tries to solve all their own problems because they may not have the skills and knowledge needed. When businesses cooperate they inevitably save money since they can extrapolate the impact of a marketing campaign when 3 or 4 businesses are collaborating versus just one.

Who should you consider a collaboration partner? The website She Boss Talk.com recommends businesses whose owners you like and are already doing business with and businesses that have similar or complementary target customers or products. Businesses that are in a similar location or neighborhood to drive customers to one another. A business that is a local favorite. Choose one where you can cross-promote on social media and ones where you can offer cross-promotions. If you can cross-promote and offer “deals” you can add to both organizations’ sources of revenue. This means co-promoting in traditional and digital media. Cooperating businesses can create product/service packages that appeal to similar customers. Another way to collaborate is to offer combined social events that have mutual branding. It is all about creating relationships and collaboration builds them.

A good example of collaboration occurred recently when a seasonal business Woolfies in Dennisport, which had already shuttered for the season, formed a mutual relationship with Makers Market that operates on Saturday and Sunday mornings (8 a.m. to noonish) at Family Table Collaborative (old Riverway Lobster House) in South Yarmouth. Dale Shadbegian’s Woolfies is a “go-to” brand that will drive customers to both those who love muffins and breakfast sandwiches to those who can be exposed to the baked goods, salads, soups and pre-prepared meals of Jeni Wheeler’s Family Table Collaborative. Collaboration, cooperation, and co-marketing all in one.

Contributed by Marc L.Goldberg, Certified Mentor. www.capecod.score.org, 508-774-4884, capecodscore@scorevolunteer.org. Source: Sharita M. Humphrey, award-winning finance expert, money mentor and Certified Financial Education Instructor, She Boss Talks (shebosstalk.com)

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