Collaboration is a powerful tool for all small business owners, regardless of the industry you are in or the type of business you have. It is the connections you form with others, and the different ways you collaborate with those people you form connections with, that will help you grow your business to new levels. 

How can collaboration help your business……...

Collaboration can inspire you - peer-to-peer support with like minded individuals can show you that there may be a better way to address your challenges,   different techniques to try, better tools to save you time and money, suppliers to use who may help you to outsource some of the tasks outside of your skills set,     market research and a second opinion.  Communicating, sharing and discussing.  Many of the creative businesses in our spaces engage with groups on platforms such as Slack or membership organisations like Worthing Digital where members can share information, ask for advice or offer guidance.  Peer to Peer support cohorts are also an excellent way for business owners to support each other.  Freedom Works run three groups in Hove, Worthing and Gatwick and plan to runsome freelance support groups in 2021.  Members have commented that it is 'so good to feel you are not alone'.  If you would be interested in joining one of these groups, contact [email protected].      

Collaboration helps you grow your network - being successful in business requires that you consistently make connections and form alliances.  Imagine how                     your business would dwindle if you continued to network with and sell to the same group over and over again. With the introduction of new data                                                protection restrictions limiting the ways in which we can (legally) increase our databases, networking organically allows you access to new contacts who are                        interested in your product/service and, by adding them to your social media platforms, you then have access to their contacts as well.  It is, therefore, really                            important to source local networking groups even during the crisis when networking has transferred to online.

Collaboration helps your business thrive and grow - by increasing your professional network you open up avenues to bring in new business from a support                         network in whom you can trust. A fantastic example is a Worthing business, CX Accountants.  After Carl  relocated to Worthing, he has grown his                                   business within a coworking environment by connecting with other members.  To facilitate these connections, we have introduced a Member Match Making                       support service to encourage connections between members so that they can support and buy from each other. In total, since the launch of our business                             support package, more than 60 new connections have been created.

Collaboration informs you - one of the biggest benefits of collaboration is the opportunity for learning.  In fact, every interaction you have with someone                               outside of your immediate circle can teach you something valuable. When you set out in business, there are many areas that you may have very little experience                in.  Two or more professionals bring several very different skill sets, perspectives, and strengths to the table. 

Membership of business organisations, such as a coworking spaces like Freedom Works, local Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Business for                             example, gives you access to the support of others who can offer advice and support on an ad hoc basis or through seminars and talks on subjects of interest.                     At Freedom Works we offer free webinars on business subjects presented by members for members - subject areas covered include exporting opportunities,                     cashflow management, online presentation and the art and science of successful selling.  This support is also on offer via our Peer to Peer cohorts where                           members explore all aspects of their business and discuss their current challenges        

Collaboration can save you money - sharing resources such as workspace or employees where budgets might be tight and you are struggling to afford a                              professional environment on your own or cannot afford the cost of full time personnel.  An example of the effective use of shared resources is with two our our                    Worthing members who shared an apprentice between them or sharing an private office.

Collaboration helps freelancers and SMEs to behave like an agency so that you can tender for larger, multi-faceted contracts - working together enables you                   to bring a varied skill set to solve issues from a multifunctional perspective bringing together marketing professionals with website, graphic designers,                                   copywriters  A group of freelancers from our Worthing coworking space worked together on a local marketing initiative marketing, a branding project to encourage investment in the town and where Worthing members collaborated to operate as an agency - Tiger Marketing, Warren Creative, Lee Statton and   Atom Promotions put together a package which included branding, marketing and a website

Collaboration makes us more productive - productivity = growth  If you have ever taken out a gym subscription, enthusiastically taking  part in January,                                 dropping a few sessions in February and fading in March, you will understand the need for a gym buddy, holding you to account for any absence and, at least,                       making you come up with a good excuse if you drop out and opt out. The same can be true of working in a collaborative environment where everyone is                               working together in a professional environment and taking an interest in each other.  Additionally, the opportunity  to have lunch with a colleague or chat whilst                 you are making coffee is a welcome break that can set you up for a productive afternoon uninterrupted by the distractions of working from home.

Collaboration makes you friends - and last, but not least, collaboration helps to keep you sane!  We are, by nature, sociable creatures and the support of your                     peers.  To ensure good mental health we need to know that we have a community of like minded people behind us and there to support and advise where                           necessary.  Our members enjoy many social occasions together, from playing in the pool league at Worthing, to Mario Kart competitions at Hove, pancake making and eating at Chichester, shared lunch at Gatwick and Christmas parties with a group of people whom you share the same working space with, these occasions                         allow members to have some fun, let off some steam and relax in a supportive, safe environment.

What tools do you need?  

Be authentic, show commitment, be generous, be transparent, show up, offer advice and support as well as taking it, come out of your comfort zone, be confident, challenge yourself, #justdoit

Hints and Tips:

  • Join groups - networking groups, entrepreneur and SME groups, industry specific groups - although networking with your competitors seems counter-intuitive, as I believed, in fact, it is really helpful to mix with those who are also facing the same challenges and you may even spot an opportunity for collaboration on a large project that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to take on

  • Networking - think about what you are trying to achieve - is this social, is this to find new suppliers, is this to find work, is this to be inspired - target you activity to this specific purpose.  It is fine to have the aim as being social - this can be good for your mental welfare - but don’t go with a friend if you are hoping to meet new people unless you have communicated to your friend that this is what you are hoping to achieve

  • Do your homework - when you have made contacts, add them to your social networks especially LinkedIn - make a personal contact with them to encourage further interaction and add them to your mailing list if you have asked them for permission.

  • Offer something to your new contacts - value add - a discount, a meet up, a free first consultation - whatever you can be creative enough to think of!

  • Target your networking - if one group is not meeting your needs, don’t waste time continuing

  • Work from other spaces, especially if you are a home worker, get out and work in a co-working space or other environment that allows you to mix with like minded individuals

  • Be inspired - attend conferences and events where other business people are telling their stories - always good for those difficult days to be able to recall an amazing, inspirational story to spur you on

  • Be generous - give back of your time, advice, introductions to your network - this is a relationship you are trying to build and, as with any other relationship, it is a two way street.

In summary, join groups - online and actual - in LinkedIn, Facebook, Slack and networking groups in your area both general and specific to your industry such as Worthing Digital.  Try coworking - it is cost effective, flexible and, if like FW, has community and collaboration at the heart of its principles.  Go to events and seminars so that you can meet potential collaborators while you learn something that will bring benefit to your business.

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