Small business is all about competing in challenging environments.  It’s doing business in the shadow of the “big box” stores as well as the neighborhood competitor.  While competition is unavoidable, there are also endless opportunities to collaborate with other businesses in order to diversify your audience, reach new customers, and improve your products or services.

But first, what does it mean to collaborate with another small business?

According to Sharita M. Humphrey, “It refers to organizations working together to solve problems and achieve goals that seem to be out of reach when working alone. By combining the expertise, perspectives and skills of different people and organizations, all parties involved are better able to innovate and grow.”

When small businesses combine their physical capital (equipment, facilities and/or raw materials), human capital (employment, employees, skills and knowledge) and intellectual capital (combine knowledge and skills), you and your collaborators can reduce costs, expand reach and find new sources of revenue.  So change your approach from going it alone to developing a culture of collaboration.

You and your collaborators can each achieve growth by combining knowledge to achieve greater customer reach.  As a small business it is difficult to compete against the larger entities, but combined with others your reach can compete more effectively and efficiently.  By combining efforts with others you can expand your network.  You can develop a broader network collectively than you can individually.  Successful small business can form alliances outside their own network they can grow their businesses.  How?  ”There are more hands-on-deck.”  

Time is a small business owner’s toughest competitor.  Humphrey advises, “When you collaborate with others, then it makes it possible to get more done together than individually.” 

When a variety of skills, knowledge, experiences and ideas are brought to the table, innovation is created.  Diversity drives positive growth, and collaboration is the beginning.  Cooperation can positively impact the life-cycle of bringing products to market, since one partner might be developer, one might the producer, and one might be the sales channel.  Collaboration brings together the resources and skills of various players to gain positive results.  To do this small business need to share knowledge and learn from one another.  When this happens, positive results are generated beyond the ability for one to do it alone. Collaboration allows you to take advantage of the skills and expertise of others – and share your own.  

Not only can innovation occur, problems can be solved.  When two or more small businesses bring their skills and experiences to an issue, it gets solved rather than just “kicking it down the road,” which may happen when a solo operator tries to solve all their own problems since they may not have the skills and knowledge needed.  When businesses cooperate they inevitably save money, since you can extrapolate the impact of a marketing campaign when three or four businesses are collaborating vs. just one.

Collaboration is a great operating strategy since you can achieve mutual growth, expand your networks, save time, fuel innovation, solve business problems, save money, and more!

Contributed by Marc Goldberg, Certified Mentor., 508/774-4884,  Source:  Sharita M. Humphrey, award-winning finance expert, money mentor and Certified Financial Education Instructor, She Boss Talks (