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Collaborate Better - 3 Tips for Success

Collaboration. It’s a word that’s getting thrown around a lot right now - which on one hand is awesome because it will lead to success and great outcomes. 

On the other hand, I’m personally sick of getting emails from people like Verizon that say “Let’s collaborate! Buy a new phone from us!”.

As a small business owner who started independently and very small, collaborations were key to getting off the ground and the availability of collaborations is a huge benefit of being in coworking spaces. But some collaborations are better than others, and if they aren’t approached appropriately, it can leave people disappointed and upset.

So, that said, here’s my top 3 tips for better business collaboration.

#1 Clear, honest, transparent communication.

If there’s nothing else you take from this, let it be #1. In order to effectively collaborate, you have to be able and willing to communicate and communicate from a place of honesty and vulnerability.

A favorite saying of mine is this “The value of collaboration lies in the gap between your vision and your capabilities.” 

So if you aren’t willing to honestly express both your vision and where you personally fall short, you aren’t going to find value in collaboration. 

Collaboration is like working on a jigsaw puzzle with someone. Imagine trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle as a team when only one person can see the end picture. It just doesn’t work.

If you want to have successful collaborations, you can’t be afraid to share your vision, share your strengths and share your weaknesses. There is someone out there who can do and wants to do the things you can’t or won’t - and this is exactly where the value lies.

#2 A fair exchange of value

There’s a reason a lot of collaborations start with something like “let’s just see where it goes”. And that’s because it can be uncomfortable to communicate what you really want. You don’t want to seem greedy or selfish and you don’t want to upset a possible good opportunity. But at the same time, if you aren’t getting a fair value exchange at some point the collaboration isn’t going to be worthwhile for you - even if it is for the other person.

Establishing a fair exchange of value doesn’t have to be referrals, commissions, or similar financial exchanges. Perhaps one business wants content for their social media and another wants resume experience creating content for businesses. Perhaps one person wants experience attending large conferences and another person wants an assistant to keep them organized at a large conference. There are a vast array of ways to exchange value without exchanging money, but you are still making a value exchange.

As a throwback to our first point, this value exchange should be honest, fair and clearly documented and communicated.

#3 Recognize that circumstances change

A huge mistake that people make (myself included) is failing to recognize that circumstances change and the clear, well communicated, fair value exchange collaboration that was working great 6 months ago, may not work for one party today.

Whether it’s personal life changes, business growth or decline, new technologies, or any number of other factors, it’s important to realize that collaborations have a shelf life.

My strong recommendation is to schedule regular re-assessments at recurring intervals to stay ahead of issues that may silently arise. It may be a quarterly meeting to make sure things are going well, every 6 months, or based on some other event frequency. But it is critically important to regularly discuss the goals, outcomes, and value exchange of the collaboration on a regular basis.

And be ok with the idea that a collaboration that is working for you might not be working for the other party any more. That's ok, it doesn't mean you did anything wrong!

And I really couldn’t end without this one, so….

#Bonus Tip: Find people with similar ideal clients

If you’ve read any of my other content, I preach about ideal clients with regularity. If you can collaborate with someone who has the same ideal client, but offers something different, you can exponentially increase the effectiveness of your collaboration. 

An industry you see this in a lot is the wedding industry. A photographer, videographer, DJ, venue all have a very similar ideal client. Different people might start looking for a DJ first while others look for a venue, but once they find one vendor they like and trust, odds are good they will ask for referrals. 

Seeking out collaborations with people who have a similar ideal client is a great way to effectively improve your outcomes.

I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, stories, and lessons learned. Please feel free to share in the comments or on social media!

And, if you or someone you know is thinking about launching a coworking space in a small town, let’s collaborate :)


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