The journey of an entrepreneur can be a lonely one – you have to make tough decisions on your own, keep your head above water and have an endless supply of resourcefulness. Without the support of a boss or co-workers, you constantly have to sharpen your business strategy, find new customers and generate fresh ideas. Often, the best way to get ahead of the competition is to team up with like-minded entrepreneurs.
I was reminded of this today at a meeting where I was propositioned…to collaborate! In some ways, the essential role of collaboration goes against the ideas and stereotypes many people have of entrepreneurs — the tinkering genius loner toiling in a suburban garage- but if we can get past that and the need to firmly grasp any brain fart and label it ours and only ours- the great things may just happen!
Understanding and embracing the need to collaborate is so important that nearly all programs and courses that teach entrepreneurship include team-based project work. As entrepreneurial skills develop and we gain experience, the strongest entrepreneurs also embrace collaboration as a way to seek out and include diverse views. That, by itself, has real value.
Here are the top reasons why you should be collaborating!
1. Collaboration is a popular trend
Shared workspaces, online collaboration tools, networking events – these days, collaboration is a buzzword you can’t ignore. This new climate of working together has been dubbed the ‘collaborative economy’ – the sharing of human and physical resources to achieve mutual goals. Businesses, big and small, are a lot more open about sharing their expertise and assets.
2. You’re in the same boat
Only a fellow entrepreneur can truly understand what you go through – not a family member, not your best friend or your bank manager- not even an employee. Spend time with other business owners and you’re bound to discover tips and tricks that worked for them, or simply just offer each other a word of support through tough times. Entrepreneurs who visit networking events often remark on how inspiring they find it to talk to and learn from fellow business owners.
3. Harness the power of mentorship
If you are just starting out and you get the chance to work with a seasoned businessperson, embrace it. Use this experience to learn tricks of the trade, and see it as a mentorship opportunity.
4. Cross-pollination of ideas
Team up with someone outside of your industry and it will be interesting to see how they do things differently. The marketing methods they use, IT systems, staff management techniques and more. Be curious and open to different ways of doing things – you never know what you might learn.
5. An ever-present sounding board
A collaboration partner is someone with whom you can safely share your problems – from customer complaints to suppliers that have failed to deliver. Together you may even help each other find a solution – for example, negotiating a bulk discount or winning a new contract with combined services.
If you’re an entrepreneur — and especially if you’re just starting out down that path — collaboration isn’t just important, it is as important as the idea itself. Finding a way to make collaboration part of your planning — and incorporating it into your mindset — will make you a better entrepreneur.
I urge you, look within your network and see past who you can get business from and start to look at who you can do business with. Collaboration is key!