The Art of Small Business Collaboration

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Collaboration comes from the Latin “colaborare” meaning “to labour together.” In business, it is the action of working with a group or an individual, to produce something and achieve a common goal, which would never have been achieved without that  co-operation. It’s the process of pooling knowledge, resources and relationships for the sake of pursuing shared aims, where everyone shares the reward or loss of the venture.

Bringing people and businesses together and then igniting and nurturing a collaborative effort, is something we proactively support at Cambridge Business Lounge. The opportunity for a start-up to create something fantastically new with the support of others, can speed up the process of any start-up to find their feet. As well as perfectly compliment their existing services or products.

Here are a few examples of to demonstrate how it worked for others…

Victoria Arnold, Desk Union:

We were keen to collaborate with another start-up, Desk Unions booking software, rather than buy an off the shelf package or have something developed from scratch. We identified a fellow Scottish start-up called Appointedd who had just launched an online booking software for salons and spas. Together, we co-developed Desk Union’s booking software over 3 months. The end result means an awesome affordable software for us, an opportunity for Appointedd to try white-labelling, and two happy startups. It’s a win-win! We always try to collaborate rather than reinvent the wheel.

Ann Hawkins, Business Advisor, Consultant and Mentor:

Locally, Patients Know Best is about five years old. Patients are put in control of their medical records; collaboration happens between patients, clinicians, researchers, charities, the NHS and pharma companies.

Local Motors is about six years old. They bring together global communities of designers, engineers, fabricators and automotive enthusiasts to solve local problems, locally.

Lego was failing badly in 2008 when it started collaborating with Japanese company Cuusoo to create a completely new business model.

Ann Hawkins and I are also good example of this. We’re both business mentors and although we target a different audience, there is some cross-over. So, do we steer clear of each other? Split Cambridgeshire in half? No, we decided to jointly host networking events and write a book to be published in January 2015, entitled “New Business: Next Steps. The All-in-one Guide to Managing, Marketing and Growing your Small Business”

What about you?

What skill, knowledge or resource could you add to another business, or a business bring to you, to produce a whole new offering? For example, instead of author commissioning an artist to illustrate their book, how about an artist and a writer coming together to create a graphic novel?

Can you see any collaborative opportunities that you’d like to seek out? Don’t worry if the answer is no, as many ideas are born out of ‘water cooler moments’ and just simply meeting businesses in the same situation as you can sow the seeds of new opportunities.

Collaboration is a powerful way to accomplish what no single organisation can on its own. It can also be a complex beast. Once you have found the right idea and partner, formulate what both parties bring to the project, what the shares and spoils are, and put it in writing. You’ll be glad you did if something did go amiss.

Now you need to find those potential partners. Try seeking these businesses and people out at your local coworking space, networking group or even good old social media. And once you have embarked on the exciting new journey of collaborative working, email your story to info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com or @CamBizLounge