I help a lot of clients with mergers and acquisitions, but too often people overlook the simple act of collaborating with another partner as organic growth strategy. This may be due to the fact that a true collaboration can require concessions and compromises, both of which are tough for an independent-minded entrepreneur.
However, many entrepreneurs become extremely successful through collaboration (I’ll provide you with a link to examples in just a minute). What are the keys to making collaboration work for you? Here are some tips:1. You’re going to have to share more than work. When you team up with another organization, you do more than just share the work. You also share time and resources, and sometimes you have to really stretch your capacity to make the venture work.
This is particularly difficult for the small business owner. You’re probably working all hours of the day as it is. Either you’re going to have to hire additional employees or reduce the hours you currently devote to your own company. Either way, be prepared to stretch yourself.
2. You have to think marathon, not quick sprint. You know how difficult it is to grow your own company. It’s going to be twice as difficult to join forces with another entrepreneur and grow a joint enterprise. Don’t expect this happen to overnight. As is the case with your own company, this will take a long time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint: Your ROI will occur in 10-20 years, not 3-5.
3. You have to believe. As you may recall from the 2006 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, actor Kevin Costner and his business associates received some heavy-duty publicity for an oil clean-up technology they had developed. BP was so eager for help that they paid Costner $18 million for the idea. Fellow actor Stephen Baldwin, was one of the initial investors, but he’d walked away from the project before the BP money came through. After the mega-buck offer came through, Baldwin wanted a piece of the action, but Costner said no. The courts ruled in favor of Costner. It underscores the basic requirement that you stick with a project for the long haul, weathering the ups and downs. You gotta believe, baby. Have faith, and trust in your shared vision.4. You need to decide who is making the decisions. Here’s a link to a Wall Street Journal article that illustrates examples of great collaboration. The article also makes a great point about the need to clearly delineate who is making the big decisions on key strategic initiatives. At some point, there will be disagreement, and someone will have to make a decision. Defining who has ownership on a particular topic will establish clear making authority, and keep your project rolling.
Collaboration can be a great tool, but you have to understand it will draw upon your time and resources. If you’re realistic and pragmatic with your approach, it can be a solid method of organic growth for you and your trusted partner.
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