Article provided by Santam
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. We look at the benefits of collaboration and how to find your perfect match.
Why collaborate with other small businesses?
Whether you see collaboration as a source of emotional support or a way to boost your income, there are many reasons to look for partnerships:
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. The internet has opened up the sharing of ideas across continents and time zones – there is nothing stopping you from partnering with another business across the country or across the globe.
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. 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 to 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.
6. Save costs
Finally, there will be many ways to save costs – music to any entrepreneur’s ears! Bringing together seven enterprising tourism operators in Soweto was the start of cooperative and 1001 days business, SO WE TOO. It also meant that marketing and administrative costs could be substantially reduced, and enabled them to negotiate a partnership with City Sightseeing.
How to find like-minded entrepreneurs to collaborate with
Ready to find a partner to work with? Here’s how to find the right person:
1. Look at your network of contacts
Sift through your phone list or LinkedIn contacts to see which businesses you might have things in common with. Make a list of what you have to offer and the types of businesses you would be well suited to. For example, if you are in the beauty business, you could team up with photographers and target the wedding industry together. Or if you have a pizza shop next to a car wash, you could offer a while-you-wait meal deal.
2. Co-working spaces
These are becoming increasingly popular – common work areas where entrepreneurs can meet, chat and share ideas. 1001 days entrepreneurs, Jesse and James shared their premises with like-minded entrepreneurs to cover overheads, which proved to be a valuable incubator.
3. Networking events
Many entrepreneurial events will create opportunities for ‘speed networking’ in a designated area, where you can meet people in your industry. Take a look at this list to plan your diary.
4. Business incubators and accelerators
If you need capital to grow your business, approach business incubators and accelerators – organisations that help small businesses and start-ups – and you might also meet fellow businesses that you can collaborate with. Here is a list of eight African entrepreneurship programmes to explore.