Is Collaboration the Way Forward for Small Businesses?

22
Oct

Life is never easy for small business owners. To survive and grow it may be time to take a different approach to how you do business. Perhaps working with other related businesses and even your competitors could be one way.

I am lucky to work a number of inspirational people who are embracing, and benefiting from, a collaborative approach to running their business.

There are two areas where this approach is particularly powerful.

  • pooling resources for marketing campaigns
  • sharing information and expertise

Pooling resources

The Wedding Industry Network York, a group of wedding-related business owners have pooled their resources to set up the website www.yorkweddingdeals.co.uk. Through the site brides who use three or more of the businesses receive some substantial discounts.

It is a great deal for brides on a budget who receive high quality, local services at a reduced   rate. It also means that the business owners can make their marketing budget go further by sharing costs for the website, advertising and wedding fairs. This is a new group led by Nikki Bowling Photography and I am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

This approach could also work well for small tourist-related businesses, where there is concern about the cost of traditional advertising through Tourist Boards. I am working with a number of companies in exploring more unconventional ways of marketing. Many of these options involve collaboration with other companies and even the voluntary sector to make the most of their joint contacts and their different skills available.

 Sharing expertise

Twitter is a great example of sharing information and expertise. Over the last year I have been the recipient of plenty of help via that medium, notably the inestimable Helen Stothard. Her business is based on collaboration with other Virtual Assistants and instead of viewing other VAs as competition she has set up Intelligent VA, which allows virtual assistants from around the country to share their knowledge. The benefit is that it makes the whole sector more professional and visible. In turn this makes more work for all virtual assistants.

 Pooling resources and sharing expertise

One of the most inspirational people I have ever met is Sophie Jewett of Little Pretty Things. Sophie believes in collaborating with as many

businesses as possible, whether they be competition or from totally different sectors.

She is a York based chocolatier and at the recent York Food Festival she had a stand for all 10 days and not only sold her own chocolates, but also those of three other local chocolate-makers. In a way she was pooling resources, because it meant that she had a wider range of chocolates to sell, but it was also sharing expertise and giving an opportunity to educate the consumers in the variety of hand crafted chocolates available.

On the evidence of the business owners I meet, collaboration is a vital part of helping the business survive and grow.