The more I think about what I'm doing to develop my fledgling business, the more I begin to realise that collaborative projects are increasingly worth pursuing.
I've written about business collaboration before at http://craig-west.co.uk/2009/05/how-to-partner-up-for-increased-chances-of-success-and-profit/ but I wanted to share a couple of very recent projects.
This morning I went to a networking group with several things in mind.
The first, obviously, was with the aim of meeting potential clients.
The second was to have a chat with a fellow networker who has hit upon an idea for a software product aimed at financial advice businesses.
The third was to discuss promotion opportunities for some funded training that a college in Nottingham has available.
The first reason for going is the reason that networking exists: finding business.
However, the second two were all about working together with someone else for mutual gain.
The software project, codename 'Project Z' (simply because it makes us smile), is a revision of an already existing but very expensive product that was developed nearly 10 years ago. The plan is for my colleague and I to work on building the system and then promoting it to smaller businesses without the current £5,000 a year pricetag, thus making it affordable for the huge number of smaller businesses. The reason that the collaboration is required is that, while I can build the software, I don't have a route into our target market.
So we both bring different skills into the mix. I bring technical expertise and my business partner brings expertise in selling into our target sector. So the next step is to get together to discuss the business plan, which is happening the week after next.
The funded training thing is that many of my contacts employ people and would greatly benefit from the custom-made skills development package that's on offer. It might sound a bit wooly but the basic premise is that the training is aimed at where employers have need.
So if, for example, a order picker in a warehouse is a hardworking and reliable staff member but is let down by poor literacy, numeracy or IT skills then it's in both the employee's and the employer's interest to address the issues.
That's a very simple example and the potential for competence and skills development is very broad across a wide range of skill sets and industry sectors. Even better if this can be done without it costing the employee or employer any money.
So the collaboration comes in because I have plenty of contacts and can promote the funded training. This then creates a very high level of goodwill in the mind of my contacts and should make it easier if I go back to them to try and sell something. Not only that but I may be able to use some of that funding for my own projects as and when they arise.
Now some people might say that I'm a bit misguided and that doing it all yourself means that the rewards are all yours. And that is partially right.
However, there is a couple of major problems with that thinking.
The first is time; I simply don't have the time to do what I'm doing and work on developing another major project on top. So working with someone else shares the workload.
The second is expertise; this is tough but even I have to admit that I don't know everything (and I hear you all saying "No kidding, Sherlock"). So when you do work with someone, make sure they're bringing additional and complementary skills to the mix.
However, the biggest consideration with business collaboration and shared projects is that, while you will likely end up sharing profits, you will also increase your chances of success by bringing more skills, knowledge, expertise, contacts and manpower to the table. And that should be worth a smaller slice of the pie if the pie promises to be much much larger than you would ever have created by working on your own.