Building Your Business Relationships Using Collaboration
Always start with something small ...
POSTED BY JACKY SHERMAN ON 22/02/2017 @ 8:00AM
One of the phrases I use when describing what we offer our clients is how to build their business through collaboration rather than competition ...
If you use collaboration rather than competition, you can build your business relationships!
copyright: georgerudy / 123rf stock photo
So collaborating with others in your network sounds wonderful and really plays on my heart strings. "Let's work together". Done properly, collaborating in this way means you can achieve more than you can achieve on your own and build a life long business friend at the same time.
"But (oh yes, there is a big but) done rashly, it can end in more than tears, it can destroy your relationship altogether!"
Here's a list of my 5 top tips to make your collaboration successful and some warnings on what can go wrong if you skip any of these points:
What is your agenda?
What do you really want to achieve from this collaboration? Is this vision shared or complemented by your collaborator? It is easy to get caught up in the specifics of the project too early without really working through what you ultimately want to achieve.
Is the project merely a device to get to know this person better and motivate them to work more closely with you? Is it the project a fundamental business objective you want to achieve that you don't have the skills to do on your own, or the resources to pay for those skills? Or are you seeing an opportunity to help someone else who needs your skills, maybe to reciprocate or start a reciprocal relationship?
Maybe it is a project you'd both like to achieve and by pooling resources can achieve more easily. You and your collaborators need to know each other's agenda and be willing to work towards meeting them.
Choose your collaborators with care
As with any partnership get to know each other well first. Yes, you may want to use this project to deepen your relationship, but get past the rudimentary stage first. Like any business venture check out each others skills, knowledge and expertise first. What positives does each of you bring to the project?
Treat it as if you were recruiting someone to do the job, and like any recruitment add in the other attributes like time available, attitude, working style, flexibility, can-do attitude. What else is going on for this person and can they really fit in this project?
I well remember a friend teaming up with someone on a project to find she was disappearing off to travel with her new husband for three months (but would be in touch via email).
Start with something small
Beware of jumping straight into a massive project. The times I've seen the following done in networking groups, usually by novice networkers who discover the benefits of having around them a team of other experts who can help their clients too.
They set up a meeting to see how they can collaborate and by the end of that first meeting they are setting up a new joint company. The marketer is choosing a name and the graphic designer is choosing the logo and the HR consultant is establishing procedures for recruiting an admin person. The lawyer in the group, always risk averse, says we need a shareholders agreement, but of course their firm would need to be paid for that ... so can we all put in some money and open a bank account? The accountant also wants remuneration. Oh, we'll need someone to manage it and what about intellectual copyright? Stop! Go back a step or two and try some reciprocal referrals first.
That may seem extreme (believe me, it isn't) and your project may seem more specific around a particular product or joint service. However it can still be a massive outlay in time and money so reign in your enthusiasm.
Frame an informal agreement
Now can you see the sense of starting small and building from there? Resist legal agreements and build trust and knowledge of each other's capabilities first. Be clear on what you are willing to put into the project in terms of your own time, money and knowledge. Do have an informal agreement on what this entails for each party and for how long. Also agree how any results from the collaboration are going to be shared.
However informal, there needs to be some degree of control, communications and evaluation. This is a really good place to test out a small project before embarking on something larger. You'll find out who does the chasing and who has to be chased, who can meet deadlines, and whose heart is really in it.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? Like anything worth doing, it is all in the planning at the outset. Go back to your agenda and set the scale of your project to match the value of what you want to achieve.
"Do I advocate collaboration?"
Oh yes, it still plays to my heart strings, but collaboration with planning works best as I'd like to keep my friends. Call me on 07970 638857 if you'd like to learn more about it.
Until next time ...
More about Jacky Sherman ...
I help people build and maintain productive working relationships both with their work colleagues and with a wider network to win more business. I do this by combining my skills in coaching, mediation and training with my extensive experience in senior management.
What I love most about my work is when my clients get those a-ha moments because I know they have seen for themselves the way that they want to move forward. Then they will achieve their ambitions.
Helping people who are having challenges with their working relationships gives me enormous pleasure. It was my privilege when working in health care to see how people working together can make the impossible seem easy and accomplish miracles as a result.
So helping people build or restore strong relationship with their colleagues makes even the hardest work easier, alleviates distress for the individual and reduces problems for the whole organisation.
In all this work trust is an essential ingredient to winning business so most of my work comes through referrals. Referrals come through strong business relationships so it was a natural extension for me to work with Ascentiv and train others in how to get consistent and predictable referrals from their network.
What a fantastic way to earn a living!
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