The Big Picture of Business – How and When to Collaborate, for Best Business Advantage.

The biggest source of growth and increased opportunities in today’s business climate lie in the way that individuals and companies work together. This article is a follow-up to my last column, “Collaborations, Partnering and Joint-Venturing.”

Situations Which Call for Teams to Collaborate

  1. Business Characteristics. Most industries and core business segments cannot be effectively served by one specialty. It is imperative that multiple disciplines within the core business muster their resources.
  2. Circumstances. People get thrown together by necessity and sometimes by accident. They are not visualized as a team and often start at cross-purposes. Few participants are taught how to best utilize each other’s respective expertise. Through osmosis, a working relationship evolves.
  3. Economics. In today’s downsized business environment, outsourcing, privatization and consortiums are fulfilling the work. Larger percentages of contracts are awarded each year to those who exemplify and justify their team approaches. Those who solve business problems and predict future challenges will be retained. Numerically, collaboration contracts are more likely to be renewed.
  4. Demands of the Marketplace. Savvy business owners know that no one supplier can “do it all.” Accomplished managers want teams that give value-added, create new ideas and work effectively. Consortiums must continually improve, in order to justify investments.
  5. Desire to Create New Products and Services. There are only four ways to grow one’s business: (1) sell more products-services, (2) cross-sell existing customers, (3) create new products-services and (4) joint-venture to create new opportunities. #3 and 4 cannot be accomplished without teaming with others.
  6. Opportunities to Be Created. Once one makes the commitment to collaborate, circumstances will define the exact teaming structures. The best opportunities are created.
  7. Strong Commitment Toward Partnering. Those of us who have collaborated with other professionals and organizations know the value. Once one sees the profitability and creative injections, then one aggressively advocates the teaming processes. It is difficult to work in a vacuum thereafter. Creative partnerships don’t just happen…they are creatively pursued.

What Collaborations, Partnering and Joint-Venturing Are NOT:

  • Shrouds to get business, where subcontractors may later be found to do the work.
  • Where one partner presents the work of others as their own.
  • Where one party misrepresents his-her capabilities… in such a way as to overshadow the promised team approach.
  • Where one partner treats others more like subcontractors or vendors.
  • Where one participant keeps other collaborators away from the client’s view.
  • Ego fiefdoms, where one participant assumes a demeanor that harms the project.
  • Where cost considerations preclude all partners from being utilized.
  • Where one partner steals business from another.
  • Where non-partners are given advantageous position over ground-floor members who paid the dues.
  • Where one or more parties are knowingly used for their knowledge and then dismissed.

Who Wants to Collaborate:

  • Those who have not stopped learning and continue to acquire knowledge.
  • Those who are good and wanting to get progressively better.
  • Those who have captained other teams and, thus, know the value of being a good member of someone else’s team.
  • Those who do their best work in collaboration with others.
  • Those who appreciate creativity and new challenges.
  • Those who have been mentored and who mentor others.
  • Those who don’t want to rest upon their laurels.
  • Those who appreciate fresh ideas, especially from unexpected sources.

Who Does NOT Want to Collaborate:

  • Those who have never had to collaborate, partner or joint-venture before.
  • Those who don’t believe in the concept… and usually give nebulous reasons why.
  • Those who think they’re sufficiently trained and learned to conduct business.
  • Those who want only to be the center of attention.
  • Those who fear being compared to others of stature in their own right.
  • Those who think that the marketplace may not buy the team approach.
  • Those who are afraid that their process or expertise will not stand the test when compared with others.
  • Those who had one or two bad experiences with partnering in the past… usually because they were on the periphery or really weren’t equal partners in the first place.

7 Stages of Relationship Building… Customers, Business Partners

  1. Want to Get Business. Seeking rub-off effect, success by association. Sounds good to the marketplace. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Why not try!
  2. Want to Garner Ideas. Learn more about the customer. Each team member must commit to professional development…taking the program to a higher level. Making sales calls (mandated or voluntarily) does not constitute relationship building.
  3. First Attempts. Conduct programs that get results, praise, requests for more. To succeed, it needs to be more than an advertising and direct marketing campaign.
  4. Mistakes, Successes & Lessons. Competition, marketplace changes or urgent need led the initiative to begin. Customer retention and enhancement program requires a cohesive team approach and multiple talents.
  5. Continued Collaborations. Collaborators truly understand teamwork and had prior successful experiences at customer service. The sophisticated ones are skilled at building and utilizing colleagues and outside experts.
  6. Want and advocate teamwork. Team members want to learn from each other. All share risks equally. Early successes inspire deeper activity. Business relationship building is considered an ongoing process, not a “once in awhile” action or marketing gimmick.
  7. Commitment to the concept and each other. Each team member realizes something of value. Customers recommend and freely refer business to the institution. What benefits one partner benefits all.

Successes with Collaborations and Joint-Ventures…

  • Crisis or urgent need forced the client to hire a consortium.
  • Time deadlines and nature of the project required a cohesive team approach.
  • The work required multiple professional skills.
  • Consortium members were tops in their fields.
  • Consortium members truly understood teamwork and had prior successful experiences in joint-venturing.
  • Consortium members wanted to learn from each other.
  • Early successes spurred future collaborations.
  • Joint-venturing was considered an ongoing process, not a “once in awhile” action.
  • Each team member realized something of value.
  • The client recommended the consortium to others.

Truisms of Collaborations…

  • Whatever measure you give will be the measure that you get back.
  • There are no free lunches in life.
  • The joy is in the journey, not in the final destination.
  • The best destinations are not pre-determined in the beginning, but they evolve out of circumstances.
  • Circumstances can be strategized, for maximum effectiveness.
  • You gotta give to get.
  • Getting and having are not the same thing.
  • One cannot live entirely through work.
  • One doesn’t just work to live.
  • As an integrated process of life skills, career has its place.
  • A body of work doesn’t just happen. It’s the culmination of a thoughtful, dedicated process… carefully strategized from some point forward.
  • The objective is to begin that strategizing point sooner rather than later.

My Own Disappointments with Previous Collaborations…

  • Failure to understand – and thus utilize – each other’s talents.
  • One or more participants have had one or a few bad experiences and tend to over-generalize about the worth of consortiums.
  • One partner puts another down on the basis of academic credentials or some professional designation that sets themselves apart from other team members.
  • Participants exhibit the ‘Lone Ranger’ syndrome… preferring the comfort of trusting the one person they have counted upon.
  • Participants exhibit the “I can do that” syndrome… thinking that they do the same exact things that other consortium members do and, thus, see no value in working together, sharing projects and referring business.
  • Junior associates of consortium members want to hoard the billing dollars in-house, to look good to their superiors, enhance their billable quotas or fulfill other objectives that they are not sophisticated enough to identify.
  • Junior associates of consortium members refuse to recognize seniority and wisdom of other associates… utilizing the power of the budget to control creative thoughts and strategic thinking of subcontractors.

My Suggested Reasons to Give the Concept a Chance…

  • Think of the “ones that got away”… the business opportunities that a team could have created.
  • Think of contracts that were awarded to others who exhibited a team approach.
  • Learn from industries where consortiums are the rule, rather than the exception (space, energy, construction, high-tech, etc.).
  • The marketplace is continually changing.
  • Subcontractor, supplier, support talent and vendor information can be shared.
  • Consortiums are inevitable. If we don’t do it early, others will beat us to it.

About the Author

Hank MoorePower Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame is now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.

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