Given the inherent challenge of being a small business owner, making time to collaborate with other business owners can be a challenge, particularly if you’re in the start-up phase.  However, established business owners know that collaboration is the best way to become and remain successful in today’s marketplace. 

When I started my consulting practice in 1998 I didn’t know this.  My marketing strategy was to include a handwritten note in the several hundred holiday cards I sent out each year.  Unexpectedly, the demand was fast and furious.  I wasn’t experienced enough to know that when someone seeks a consultant they typically need one now and tried to take on several projects at once.  As a result, I over-promised, under-delivered and ended up in the hospital.  That was a wake-up call. 

Seek Opportunities to Collaborate

When we look for opportunities to collaborate with other business owners it changes our perspective from “How can I be successful?” to “How can we collaborate to ensure our mutual success?”  and gives us greater opportunity for success.  

One way to do that is to seek other business owner’s perspectives and counsel on a shared issue.  A discussion about the peaks and valleys of consulting engagements resulted in a referral partnership that’s kept us both working for more than twenty years.

Collaboration, Not Competition

One of the most effective methods of making your business successful is to learn from businesses you’d typically consider your competition.  Compare your products or services to theirs.  What makes theirs better, faster, or less expensive?  What can you do you compensate for or capitalize on the differences?   How can you collaborate to drive up demand for both of your products or services?    

You don’t have to look much further than your local newspaper or website for examples.  On this little island we have:  Restaurant Week, the Shrimp Fest, an Author’s Show, the monthly Art Walk, the weekly Farmer’s Market, the Bi-Weekly Craft Fair, and several private and publicly funded educational venues where you can teach, speak, learn, or just go to meet people.      

Leah Ward-Lee is a entrepreneur and business writer based in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.

Published by Leah Ward-Lee

Leah Ward-Lee, the author of "$1,000 Start-Ups", is a serial micro-entrepreneur. She opened her first business at ten after lobbying for and receiving a shoe shine kit for Christmas. She pulled her wagon through the neighborhood, going door-to-door, offering to shine her neighbor’s shoes for twenty-five cents a pair. Once her wagon was full, she took the shoes home and polished them. Unfortunately that business was short-lived. She hadn’t tagged the shoes and couldn’t remember whose shoes were whose, so her dad went with her to retrace the route until every pair was returned. Since then she’s had businesses developing and teaching college courses, instructing aerobic classes, owning half a plane that was rented to a flight and maintenance school, and renting homes. She’s also owned a consignment store, a gift shop, a gift basket business, a consulting firm, hosted The Executive Toolbox (a weekly radio show), and a publishing company. She also spent twenty years in the US Army, served as the Chief Information and Technical Officer for two major insurance companies, and has a second career as a management consultant. Leah resides in Dallas, TX and on Amelia Island with Sammy and Goliath, her two rescue dogs.

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