Continuing the series on how collaboration can benefit your business, YTKO programme director Helen Trudgeon takes a closer look at the first phase to success
As we established in earlier issues, companies working in partnership is not a new concept. Every day we see high profile collaborations between large multinational companies such as Nike and Apple bringing music and exercise together with the Sports Kit, or perhaps Virgin teaming up with MasterCard to develop a market leading prepaid card.
Both these joint ventures went on to become hugely successful international campaigns, pushing each company to develop other co-branded product lines and ranges to complement their existing portfolios.
The reason these products are successful is not just as a result of the innovative marketing strategies behind their launches, or the comparatively vast budgets available to get the projects off the ground.
The secret ingredient is in fact the care and attention given to the decision and planning stages before any partnership is even in place. Don’t be fooled into thinking this thought process is any less important for an SME collaboration.
Before you commit more substantial time and resources, asking yourself some very simple initial questions will quickly help establish whether collaboration is right for your business:
• What opportunities are out there for my company?
• What is the relative financial return for my company?
• What is the relative risk involved?
• Is my company suited to working in partnership with another business?
• What are the perceived barriers to market this collaborative product/service, and can they be overcome?
Collaboration implies a level of interdependence between partners and as such it can be difficult to set up and sustain successfully. One of the recurring reasons why collaborations fail is the lack of trust and openness between partners.
Collaboration involves compromise and sharing – sharing ideas, sharing decision making, sharing risks and sharing results and benefits.
If your natural preference is opposite to this philosophy, then you need to consider carefully whether collaboration is right for your business. By being open and honest about your objectives
and realistic about the return on investment you can expect to get, collaboration can be a real option to achieve your organisation’s goals.
Prior to engaging in a collaboration, it is also important to carry out analysis of risk, opportunity and attitude, as well as clearly identifying what role your company might take within a joint venture.
It is often useful to engage with a facilitator such as Partner to Succeed in these early stages to help your organisation understand how suited you are to collaboration and to provide advice on the time and effort necessary to ensure success. A good facilitator will also act as devil’s advocate to establish whether collaboration really is the optimum approach to business growth, or if an alternative option would be more appropriate.
Collaboration is an often-overlooked strategy by which the whole can truly be greater than the sum of the parts. While it should be used sparingly and judiciously, when used under the correct circumstances it could bring real benefits to your business. Give it some thought, you might be surprised.
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