In difficult times, it’s not difficult to see how collaborations between companies have the potential to offer mutual support and even bring a community together, be it geographical or categorical. For example, craft breweries sometimes join forces in raising funds for emergency-based or nonprofit causes by offering “benefit beers.”
However, the importance of collaboration in business can’t be overstated in good times, either: it creates the potential for multiple companies to benefit from physical, human, or intellectual capital as well as financial advantages.
5 Reasons to Work with Other Businesses
Here are five reasons entrepreneurs should consider collaborating with other community establishments:
- Foster mutual growth. When they work together and combine resources, small organizations may compete with larger ones by offering their clients more than they could on their own, possibly increasing both revenue and brand visibility.
- Expand networks. Much as a realtor can recommend high-quality contractors to their clients, so businesses in the same or similar sectors can share contacts and their experiences with third parties (such as vendors).
- Save time. If you’re sharing human capital, you have more people to help with collaboration-related processes and projects, which means you’ll have more time to spend on tasks exclusive to company owners.
- Share knowledge, drive innovation, and solve problems. When you share ideas and resources with another business owner, each of you can potentially learn about or invent better ways to approach any aspect of your operations. You may even introduce each other to entirely new skill sets, such as running a successful social media campaign.
- Save Money. You can afford game-changing services and technology if you share the costs and benefits with another company. Investing in better products and services can bring in more customers and more revenue without the drawback of overspending.
Ways to Collaborate with Businesses in Your Community
As you’re considering other companies it might be beneficial to partner with, consider how you might complement each other. Here are some small business collaboration ideas:
- Sharing space. When you share space with another entrepreneur, you can bring more foot traffic to both of your companies. You might be able to share lease, utility, and other costs or simply cross-pollinate your clientele.
- Supporting each other through social media. When social distancing is in order, sharing news and support with other companies online helps boost entrepreneur morale and provides a suitable environment for collaboration. You may even choose to host or offer guest posts from a complementary organization.
- Hosting a socially distanced or another type of pop-up. Entrepreneurs with small business spaces that don’t allow for social distancing can sell their goods at a company with more space—or even fully outdoor areas, like pumpkin and Christmas tree farms. Similarly, a lesser-known entrepreneur might do a presentation or pop-up event at a busier one. But, again, the business with the larger space will benefit from increased foot traffic and new ways to generate customer interest.
Finding a Business to Collaborate With
Which community businesses might make the most sense to partner with is not always immediately apparent. In these cases, it can be helpful to consider a potential relationship from the following perspectives:
- Shared business and business culture values. Try to identify companies with the same or similar driving principles as yours to decrease the likelihood of conflict. Also, look for those with similar attitudes and practices.
- Complementary skills. You might have a superior product or service; your partner might have outstanding marketing skills. Think about what abilities you might be able to offer in collaboration and what the other business might offer you.
- Mutual trust and respect. Have you had interactions with the company owner before? It’s important to trust any prospective partner so that each of you feels they are making equal contributions and will be supported by the other.
Business Collaboration Tools
Historically, business collaboration tools were designed to be used in person, such as conferences and conference rooms, whiteboards and visual aids, and shared machinery or hardware. However, with the arrival of the internet, online tools like email removed the need for logistics associated with working together simultaneously in the same space. More recently, it has become possible for companies to use business-to-business (B2B) collaboration software.
B2B collaboration software can support or include:
- Discussion boards
- Document management
- Project management
- Intranets and extranets
- Social tools
- Workflow tools
- Instant messaging
In addition, it may be worthwhile to consider enrolling in a business accelerator program for collaborations and other business strategies. Such programs can provide helpful coaching on various topics related to running a small business.