Collaboration is the new black

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One of the biggest buzz words in business today is COLLABORATION.

Not only does it help you define your leadership, expand your network and grow your business, it is also a powerful tool to harness the power of teamwork while you make fantastic business partnerships along the way.

The benefit of collaboration has commonly been employed throughout companies and businesses due to the very nature of team work. However, for solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and small businesses employing few staff or based from home, collaboration takes on a whole new meaning.

Bartering has been around since 6000 BC. It was the old method of exchange before currency was invented. Goods were exchanged for food, tea, weapons, and spices. Even cows! It became popular again in the 1930s during the Great Depression when the method was used to obtain food and various other services. It remains common in some local communities. However, in today’s world of infinite possibilities, bartering and collaboration continues to grow, embraced by many businesses and entrepreneurs including myself.

It is becoming so popular there are collaboration “matchmaking” sites such as Collabosaurus providing easy to use platforms to introduce members to a variety of potential matches. Whatever you desire, the answer may be in collaboration.

Know your why and be open to possibilities

No two businesses are alike and, as people, we all come to the table with certain aspirations, agendas and expectations. That’s why it’s important to understand your ‘why’ and ‘how’ before you enter into a project. Think about what you want AND what you can offer.

Are you looking to host or speak at an event? Do you want to cross-promote a competition or giveaway to increase your social media following or email list? Do you want access to a certain market and have value to offer someone within that market who’s already established? Do you need a website developed and have content you can provide to your designer in return? The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination.

Once you’re clear on what you want to achieve and what you’re able to offer in return, also get clear on the value you’re prepared to trade on. Then you can discuss your goals and objectives with your collaborator. Be open to what they’re seeking. There may be a variety of ways you can help each other that you hadn’t yet thought of. Brainstorm your project together and get clear on some measurable goals that are attainable and of value to each of you. Every collaborative business activity you undertake should have a quantifiable return on investment.

Understand your value doesn’t change

Even though there may be no exchange of money, it is important to remember the offer is of no lesser value. In fact, this may be the beginning of a very profitable partnership. You need to continue to provide the same exceptional quality you would provide to any other client; just as you would expect to receive from your collaborative partner.

You can know and respect your value in trade by:

  • Being open to everything your collaborative partner can bring to the table and by being clear on all that you can bring in exchange. You could sit down and brainstorm all of the possibilities. See what fits and what doesn’t, you never know what you might come up with. After all, two minds are better than one!
  • Researching your possible collaboration partner to make sure they’re the right fit. What’s their standing in the market, what content do they have on their website, are there customer reviews, do you like their portfolio, etc.
  • Getting clear on your ROI. Products and services are easily quantifiable when they are regularly offered by you or your collaborator. Other benefits such as event spaces, collateral, social media leverage, access to a loyal customer base, publicity and the like may need a bit more market research to ascertain the full return on your investment.
  • Mutually agreeing on a written offer or service agreement with quotes and estimates. At the end of the assignment draw an invoice as usual, marking it as paid pursuant to your service agreement. I find this helps to quantify and add value to the exchange when I see the figures in my usual billable format.

Whatever works for you, make sure you don’t undervalue yourself in the process.

CONCLUSION

Whether you’re looking to host a business seminar, workshop, product launch or other event, run a cross promotional opportunity, create some new content or develop a new product, the power of collaboration offers an incredibly unique yet targeted opportunity for marketing your brand. I would love to hear about whether you’ve given it a go and what your results were. Join the Facebook conversation.