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Collaborating with other businesses

Chris Elphick
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

DURING this series I am looking at a number of issues relevant to all small and medium enterprises and identify both the opportunities and challenges associated with each issue.

Topics to be covered include planning; staff and recruitment; customers and service; marketing; competition; new products and services; being well organised; collaborating with others; understanding and analysing risk; managing the money; going into business with family or friends; grants, loans and investment; expansion and growth; technology and exporting.

Today my focus is on collaborating with others.

None of us are as smart as all of us!

Running a small business, especially for the first time, can be a lonely and isolating experience.

There are so many things to learn and so much to do.

For many new small business owners they are also trying to work elsewhere in order to bring in money while their business venture gets off the ground.

A major challenge is how can we collaborate with others and retain our own uniqueness and identity?

If we don't collaborate we will almost certainly be reinventing the wheel and learning the hard way.

If we do collaborate then maybe we run the risk of losing our good ideas to someone else.

There are many forms of collaboration.

We may join a networking group where the purpose is to share ideas and try and trade with each other.

We might approach other businesses with a view to joining forces for a one-off project or as full blown partnership.

Whatever form of collaboration we might be thinking about we must be clear as to why we want to go this route.

Are there other options?

Can I learn the skills I need myself?

Will collaborating with others help me achieve my goals faster and more profitably?

Who should I collaborate with? For example a group of different businesses working together in a shopping area or street could collaborate on joint marketing or special promotions.

Could I add value to what I produce or sell by collaborating with others?

Will I lose my identity if I work with other people?

Am I putting effort into competing with someone when I could more profitably work with them?

There are a lot of questions to ask that need answers.

Take your time to enter into a collaborative relationship.

Find out as much as you can about your prospective "partner".

Talk it through with friends and associates.

Perhaps give it a try — collaborate on a single project to see if it works before making any bigger commitment.

Collaboration could include a range of relationships from something very informal to a formal partnership or working arrangement.

Whatever you do has to work for you, your business and your customers.

Consider joining your local chamber of commerce or business organisation as the first step — there you might meet people of like mind that you could work with.

Clusters are a greet form of collaboration — businesses doing similar things working together to share costs, add value and provide badly needed support for each other.

We cannot ignore the businesses around us — they probably are not ignoring us!

There is nothing to lose by exploring possible ways to work together — enter into no arrangement or firm commitment until you are sure it will be in your best interests and in the best interests of your customers.

Start your journey to collaboration by networking with others — go to business gatherings or meetings, talk to others, listen and learn.

If you have a mentor discuss with him/ her about the merits and dangers of collaboration and explore how you could make the relationship work for you.

Take your time and you may find a relationship that will revolutionise the profitability of both businesses.

If you need help with collaboration or you want some feedback on your own practices, then please get in touch.

* Chris Elphick is partner in Breadfruit Consulting, formerly Learnfast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Melanesia and other parts of the Pacific. He is an experienced trainer, coach and business mentor and has years of experience of working with small and medium enterprises. He and his partner Hazel Kirkham live in Vanuatu.

Breadfruit Consulting have partnered with Fiji Entrepreneur to develop mentoring services for new and young entrepreneurs. If you have an issue or query related to this article, please contact Chris at or text to +6785500556

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