Establishing Meaningful Collaborations as a Small Business

The following is a guest post by Innovate UK, the British government’s innovation agency. They are focused on finding British businesses and entrepreneurs who can use new science and technology to drive economic growth.

Follow Innovate UK on Twitter: @innovateuk.

Strength in numbers – often the key to success when looking to get by in a competitive sector. One of the most important lessons every small business owner learns along the way is that going it alone can be tricky. However strong you are on your own, you’re always stronger with others by your side.

Which is precisely where the importance and value of exploring collaboration opportunities comes into the equation. Whatever it is you do and regardless of your current position, partnership opportunities are there for the taking.

It’s just a case knowing how, when and where to approach those who could help take your business to the next level. Easier said than done – especially for those in the new business arena with zero experience in building collaborations of value with others.

So with this in mind, here’s a brief overview of four helpful tips for establishing meaningful collaborations as a smaller business:

1. Explore multiple opportunities

First and foremost, embracing partnership opportunities does not mean diving headfirst into the first opportunity that presents itself. Instead, it means fully exploring who’s out there, what they can offer and which potential partners represent the best choices for your business and your objectives. Always remember – a collaboration that makes no real sense for your business is of less value than no collaboration at all.

2. Create your partnership strategy

Ask yourself carefully – what are your primary objectives and intentions for the partnership? Why do you need it, what do you hope to get out of it and what are you willing to trade-off to achieve your goals? You need to form a strategy plan that’s essentially something of a sub-business plan. One that considers your intentions, opportunities, potential challenges and of course, what you have to offer potential partners.

3. Carefully evaluate partners

Don’t be afraid to be as selective as necessary when scrutinising potential partners. Never forget that it’s you and you alone that needs to remain in the driving seat for your business. Ask yourself – what traits and qualities are you looking for? Does the partner you’re considering share your vision, passion and priorities? Are you sure you ‘click’ on both business and personal levels? Take your time and be picky – this is no time to take chances or allow compromise to creep into the equation.

4. Monitor and optimise

Last but not least, no partnership is ever 100% perfect – certainly not in its earliest stages. There’s always room for improvement, meaning that the only way to ensure you get the maximum benefit from any partnership is to focus on its continuous refinement. Rather than simply accepting the partnership for what it is, monitor its performance, scrutinise its value and always look for areas that could stand to be improved. This way, even an imperfect partnership can be gradually moulded into the kind of collaboration that could transform everything about your business and its future success.

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