Successful business collaborations can be very powerful and helpful when it comes to growing your business. Whether it’s to boost sales, add to your marketing efforts, introduce yourself to a slightly new audience or just to simply help out a business friend, collaborations are amazing.
If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to collaborating with other business owners, I’ve put together some thoughts and tips to help make yours as successful as possible.
Note from Katie…wait, why the lack of pictures? In an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of my web presence, I am only using images at the very top of my posts, as well as where they serve a true purpose, such as headshots or infographics. That’s why you won’t find any purely decorative photos here anymore.
What is collaboration?
The dictionary definition of the word collaboration is “the action of working with someone to produce something”.
It’s a term that you’ll see bandied about a lot in the online business world. And sadly the word “collaboration” can sometimes conjure negative images of influencer/brand partnerships gone wrong and can trigger concerns that the other person is out to take and give nothing back.
The good news is, in the sustainable & ethical business space, successful business collaborations are much more common and mutually-beneficial collaboration opportunities are popping up left, right and centre.
Successful business collaborations can help business owners work together to achieve a whole host of benefits. Perhaps you need someone to act as an accountability buddy to reach your goals. Or maybe you could come together with another business owner to solve a collective problem.
Other successful collaborations involve sharing your skills to fill knowledge gaps, save money (or reduce costs), increase your audience and build reciprocal relationships. Some of the best collaborations aren’t just beneficial for business, though. The best ones result in long-term working relationships and lasting friendships. Who doesn’t want a piece of that action?
Examples of successful business collaborations
If you’re struggling to visualise how business collaborations can fit into and benefit your business, here are a few ideas and examples:
- Working with another business to promote complementary services/products. This allows you to share costs, provide benefits and give added value to your customers and promote each other. For example, a wellness gift box provider may want to engage product businesses that offer face masks, candles, bath products, healthy or comforting snacks. Or they may also look to engage service-based businesses such as yoga/pilates/meditation studios. Have a think about how other businesses in your network might complement your own offering, and reach out!
- Work with another business on distribution or services and events. Hosting events together can cut costs and leverage contacts. For example: a luxury picnic provider may work with an outdoor furniture hire company to launch a range of luxury picnic experiences.
- Combine product or service launches. This can help to gain a wider, relevant audience. For example: a new café may work with a local fresh-pressed juice company to launch their product and open the café at the same time.
- Start and continue your journey together to create a collaborative product line. For example: Running a personalised item business will give you the opportunity to collaborate with suppliers of:
- Blank products
- Graphic design services
- Specialised machinery
- Market/pop-up stall holders
Top tips for successful business collaborations
Ready to start setting up your business collaborations? Here are my top tips:
Set clear goals and outcomes
By developing measurable outcomes to determine the success of the collaboration, you can assess whether it’s something you’d like to do again, and also keep everyone involved engaged and accountable for its success.
Communication and openness are key here. What are you both (or all) hoping to achieve from this collaboration and how can you collectively get there? This is the time to communicate your strengths and what you can bring to the table, as well as highlighting any areas you might need support with, so others can take on tasks or skills you’re not so hot on.
Set clear expectations
Similar to above, setting clear expectations is really important to ensure the success of your business collaborations. It can help to approach setting expectations in the same way as you do with clients, customers, suppliers or employees.
Consider things such as communications (how and when will you communicate about the project), deadlines and turnaround times.
It’s also worth setting out in advance what you will give to the collaboration and what others will give in return. This saves any awkward conversations if someone in the partnership doesn’t feel others are pulling their weight.
Again, keep lines of communication open and if there’s any reason why you can’t deliver what you’ve said you’re going to, tell the other involved parties. Integrity is key to successful business collaborations.
It’s also worth considering how being in different time zones can affect how the collaboration works as well as which countries you are targeting if your collaboration activity is something customer-focused
10 golden rules of successful business collaborations
- Be honest and work openly to uphold your end of the bargain. If you’re struggling to meet a deadline, talk about it and work through any issues together.
- Respect each other’s businesses and any confidential information exchanged in the collaboration process. Be mindful of one another’s values.
- Work for the good of each other as well as yourself.
- You’re both/all human. Humans are flawed, have insecurities, strengths and weaknesses. Keep this in mind and be kind.
- Keep things honest, open and friendly. It can help to be prepared to talk about things other than work (you don’t have to share your life story but get to know each other enough to hold a friendly, casual conversation).
- Consider and discuss how the collaboration could develop as time goes by. Thinking long-term could open a whole world of new opportunities.
- Be open to new ideas and be flexible with your collaborators.
- Discuss each other’s strengths and weaknesses to determine where time is best spent by each of you.
- Be willing to ask for and receive help as well as offering & receiving help.
- Celebrate all of your wins, big and small! This keeps the vibe alive and helps cement those long-term relationships.
When planned and thought out properly, business collaborations can build fantastic, beneficial partnerships and lead to lots of opportunities. Being open to suggestions is the first step, as well as being brave enough to reach out to someone you admire or see synergies with. Now, go forth and collaborate!