Building Your Business Relationships Using Collaboration
Frame an informal agreement ...
Posted by Jacky Sherman on 02/06/2021 @ 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 heartstrings. "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 lifelong 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? Once you've built trust and knowledge of each other's capabilities then you may be ready for a first joint project. 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.
You're still at the exploration stage of working together so manage your own and others expectations and keep any agreement short term and easy to change or disengage if things don't work out as planned.
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.
Until next time ...
Would you like to know more?
If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.
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