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As a microbusiness owner, you are inherently limited to how much you can achieve by yourself. There is only one of you and there are only so many hours in the day. Even as you improve your systems and marketing, and all the other things that take up the majority of your day, you’re still limited to what you can do all by yourself *channels inner Celine Dion*. And that, my friend, is why you need to harness the power of collaboration.
The heart of collaboration is co-labor; working together with someone else on a mutual goal. Which can feel weird to the microbusiness owner, especially the one who started her business so she wouldn’t have work for anyone else.
But, consider The Traveling Wilburys. In 1988, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison- all bonafide rockstars- came together to form the supergroup. Initially, they planned on creating one song, “Handle with Care”, but because the collaboration was so successful, they ended up recording two albums. By working together, they were able to create something they never could have created individually, reach new audiences, find an outlet for their creative needs, and make some money, yo. Why? Synergy.
The Power of Synergy
The secret to the power of collaboration lies in synergy.
In a non-collaborative endeavor, two parties come together and compromise. Each is willing to give up a little in order to get a little. Neither party is fully engaged or fully optimized, so the result, while larger than what one party could have achieved on her own, it is only slightly more effective than working alone. If the partnership were a math equation, it would be 1+1 = 1.5.
In a true collaboration, where the partners are working together towards one common goal, they create synergy. With synergy, the sum is greater than the individual parts and the group is able to produce results that far outnumber what each party could have produced individually. With synergy, 1 + 1 = 3.
If it’s so good, why is it so hard?
Collaboration is kind of like the kale of the business world. We know it’s good for us, but sometimes it’s hard to swallow.
#1: We all think differently.
Our opinions and beliefs are developed through our personal life experiences. I think kale is gross. You think kale is delicious. Kale is still kale, but we see it differently. That’s no big deal, in and of itself, until we try to collaborate on a contest and you want a lifetime supply of kale to be a grand prize and I am convinced that no one would even enter Kale-a-palooza!
#2: We all have different goals and strategies.
As microbusiness owners, we are laser-focused on reaching our goals, using the strategies that work best for us. In a collaboration, we may be called to use different strategies than we’ve previously used. And we’re diverting our resources (time, talents, brainpower) away from our individual goals.
#3: It forces us to have a growth mindset.
When we enter a collaboration, we must be open to other ideas and viewpoints, even if they involve kale. Collaborations force us to be honest about our assumptions and consider that we may be *gasp* wrong, or at least, not have a complete and accurate perspective on the situation. Successful collaborations require us to be willing to change our thinking.
Elements of a successful collaboration
- Define a clear and compelling cause. Everyone involved is diverting resources from their own microbusiness, so they need to understand and believe in the overall cause of the collaboration.
- Establish collaboration goals. What is the desired outcome of the collaboration?
- Cover your weaknesses. Find collaborators who rock at the things you aren’t great at, or bring something to the table other than what you bring to the table. You wouldn’t want everyone bringing potato salad to your annual summer pool party potluck and the same goes for your collab. Remember, diverse thinking brings new solutions!
- Leverage team members strengths. Everyone involved in the collab has some gifts and talents. When you leverage their strengths, the entire collaboration wins.
- Communicate expectations and establish accountability. Everyone involved needs to participate and carry her own weight. But she can’t do that if you haven’t clearly outlined the expectations.
- Record it, or it didn’t happen. Keep notes of what was discussed and who is doing what. Don’t assume everyone heard the same thing.
- Finally, accept that your ideas are input and not necessarily the outcome. The power of a collaboration is from the melding of ideas. Nothing will derail a collaboration quicker than adopting a “It’s my way or the highway” attitude.
When you harness the power of collaboration, you are able to achieve things you could have never achieved on your own, or much quicker than you could have done flying solo. Ready to create your own collaborative effort? Check out these ideas.