Tuesday, June 07, 2011

How to Develop Great Collaborations

We call them different things, partnerships, collaborations, strategic alliances... whatever term you use, are you developing these relationships? Do you even know what you want out of these relationships – or what you have to offer?

As a small business owner or solopreneur, collaborations or alliances can be a low-cost strategy for business development – and super effective. Following are just a few ways in which these alliances can be a win-win situation:
  • Develop a new product or service together
  • Grow your community and resources
  • Create a mastermind group
  • Support, motivation, inspiration
  • Development of new business groups
  • Sharing risk and financial commitment
Let’s talk a little about when you want to collaborate with another entrepreneur for the purpose of making money together. Partnerships of any kind can be tricky business but there are some things that you can do that will greatly increase your chances of success. Following are 6 tips for forming collaborations that work: 

1.     Choose carefully
You want to work with people who are like minded, have the same value system and that you totally trust and respect.
It always has to be a win-win.
2.     Determine your shared goals
Be clear on what you want to get out of your collaboration
Work out the time, money and any additional resources that are required from each of you.
Talk openly about the “what ifs”.
Talk money… it’s not a dirty word!
3.     Discuss Communication
Leave nothing to assumption. Discuss everything. What are the communication expectations?
Keep great notes and after each meeting provide an action list with activities assigned that have a timeline on each item.
4.     Do a big picture breakdown
Take the project and break it down into bite size pieces with action items and time-lines attached to everything, BEFORE you start anything.
This will help you both see the other’s attention to detail, commitment and follow through.
5.     Give each other an out.
Discuss exit options before you even get started. This will allow each of you a predetermined way to leave the collaboration without a bitter ending.
Brainstorm best and worse case scenarios – it’s easier to do this BEFORE anything happens, from an objective point of view.
6.     Know your partner’s working style
How does your partner process information? What is their decision making process like? Do they function on their intuition or are they thinkers? How do they spend their money? What is important to them? Are they detailed oriented and you’re a big picture thinker? Does your style and theirs make for a good collaboration?

Collaborations can be a very lucrative and personally satisfying endeavor. If you take the time to do your research upfront and you enter the relationship with both your eyes wide open, then you’re likely to have a great experience – OR – you’ll find out in the very early stages that this is not the right alliance for either of you. Even when there are major differences, as long as you know up front and have a strategy to deal with it, those differences can enhance the project.

I have a couple of collaborations that are really working for me because my partners and I are open, not afraid to communicate honestly, and most of all we truly trust and respect each other. We not only embrace each others strengths, but our differences as well.

Originally published in New Life Business Newsletter June 2011

Friday, June 03, 2011

Business is a Result of the Relationship

You’ve heard it a million times – “people do business with people they know, like and trust”. How does that happen if you’re not putting some effort into the development of that relationship?

The quality of the relationship is directly related to your sales success… yes I said that dirty word… sales! The professional sales person (and if you’re a business owner, you should be a professional sales person) looks at sales as helping someone get what they need, which is not always what you have and that’s A-OK!

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the “busy work”, that we miss doing the reeeeeaaallly important stuff that seems trivial but makes a huge difference.

Following are 15 ways to attract more clients each and every day:
1.     Join 3 organizations that your ideal clients are likely to be members of
2.     Be around colleagues that challenge and inspire you to do your best work
3.     Send a monthly newsletter
4.     Send your clients notes, articles, magazines… all by snail mail (if they’re not on strike!)
5.     Invest in training, coaching and development
6.     Always be professional
7.     Give a referral and follow up with both parties
8.     Remember… it’s all about THEM… NOT YOU!!!
9.     Learn to sell the customer-focused way – serve, don’t sell
10.   Find joy each day and spread it around
11.   Don’t be a 'yes' person – there’s no value in that
12.   Be interested – not just interesting
13.   Meet people that scare you
14.   Devote 30 minutes a week to relationship-building (for dozens of ideas, email me and I’ll send them to you)
15.   Create a support team

As your colleague, I challenge you to actually DO some of these in the next week or at least get started (some take longer than a day). Let me know how it goes!

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on June 3, 2011