If your upbringing was anything like mine, most of us were raised to be competitive. Either in a team, or individually at school, in sports and then right through my business experiences. We were taught to pit ourselves against the opposition.
However, since the turn of the millennium, the world has started undergoing a transformation, economically, politically, socially, physically and culturally. Power is shifting and the physical marketplace is changing to a virtual one. Both businesses and consumers are looking for more sustainable alternatives. For small to medium businesses, this could be the difference between survival and failure.
We are entering an economic environment where collaborative spirit is allowing businesses to compete with their larger counterparts. By combining synergistic products and services to their clients, businesses can compete without having to invest the capital expenditure to do it all themselves. An article by Kellog School of Management on the collaboration economy stated that “we are entering an economic era where people and organisations are connecting and interconnecting ever more quickly and fluidly”.
Collaboration isn’t a new economic school of thought, practical benefits exist for business owners that think outside the box and work with others. Collaboration provides cost saving and economies of scale through distribution of labor, access to networks, knowledge sharing which fuels innovation and our businesses can become leaner and fitter through collaboration.
However, because we were raised to compete it takes a bit to retrain how we think about collaboration. Some ways that you can work towards building a collaborative vision in your businesses is through building your networks. Seek out inspiration and support from like minded businesses where you can share challenges and brainstorm solutions.
Symbiotic selling is another effective technique where businesses who have a shared customer base participate in joint marketing opportunities. Informal alliances bring new value to current customers, as well as expand your visibility into new audiences. A colleague of mine in a regional town became so frustrated by commercial lease rates that she brought together a group of businesses and purchased a building together. Shared ownership of capital expenses and shared purchasing agreements is another powerful and effective way to work the collaboration economy.
In short, by seeing fellow businesses as partners and not competitors, owners can harness the power of the collective to attract customers, seek inspiration and help their overall bottom line. Collaboration is the new competition, at least when it comes to building businesses, particularly in regional towns.