Collaborate to Innovate – Why Teamwork is Good for Your SME

Michelle Cowley-Cunningham

Posted by on 9th April 2019

SME entrepreneurs are competitors at heart. They desire to begin, grow and win. Yet no matter how brilliant a strategy, in business those who play a solo game will lose out to a team.

That said, it is difficult to persuade many SME owners to think of collaboration as win-win. Often they recall a time when someone else took the lead and a project failed, or how things could have been so much better if only they were in charge. What many SME owners forget is that for collaboration to work, each team member needs to have a role in which they play expert. 

Let’s now take a look at some unexpected ways in which collaboration may help grow your business. 

1. Creative Abrasion

If you desire to innovate, don’t be afraid of asking your staff, suppliers, and customers for their feedback about your new ideas. Those working at key pressure points in the innovation process are bound to have insights. Involving them in your ongoing decision-making process may reduce your risk of being blindsided by competitor developments. Moreover, testing your innovations with independent accredited partners often reduces the number of iterations required, thereby shortening your time to market.

2. Self Awareness

Collaboration requires good communication. Working with others will challenge you to articulate your innovative idea in a tempered way. It will also force you to focus on your strengths to vie for the best-suited role in the process. Your collaborators will reflect your strengths and weaknesses back and encourage improvement, or challenge you to stop pursuing the unnecessary and to implement essential goals. What’s more, the opportunity to help other team members will provide an opportunity to learn from others’ experiences or perspectives. 

3. Diversification

Let’s face it. Most SME Owners are often too busy running their own business to think about large-scale innovation.  One may have let opportunities leading to new markets simply slip by in the past. This is where collaboration can provide the productive oxygen you crave. By joining with a partner outside of your industry with complementary skills to your own, you may find the space and momentum to create and drive your business forward. 

4. Collective Learning

When you work with others you will learn from them, and importantly learn from their past mistakes. Vicarious learning can be a wonderful thing. It will help you put safety nets in place to prevent failure, and will help you discover better quality opportunities for growth. When your SME collaborates you will also afford your associates the space to grow beyond their own comfort zone, in return stretching the boundaries of your own business or market.

5. Shared Workload

Many hands make light work. When you share ideas and workload, collaboration can equip you with higher quality ideas and better ways of working thereby reducing staff costs. Your strengths may compensate collaborators’ weak points in production and vice-versa. Synergies much more efficient than unitary working will improve your revenue. There are many initiatives you can avail of to grow your collaborative network. Discover for example, how InterTradeIreland can help you find collaboration partners with their online platform All-island Innovation Programme.

Remember, no one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it… If you’re thinking of partnering with another business then these steps can help reassure you that collaboration is often worthwhile. 

If it’s time to invest a little in your first collaboration then Linked Finance can help.  We can provide fast, affordable business loans to support your partnership project. Apply now.

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