Read pretty much any manual on the art of good business and sooner or later, you’ll read this. Surround yourself with talent. By building a team of people with the right skills and experience, you create a powerful platform to grow a great business. This is a great philosophy, and one that people running even a small business would be well-advised to embrace.
However, in the real world, we have to recognise that building a skilled and experienced team can require significant investment. In challenging economic times, this can be risky. While it might be great to build a team capable of dealing with all the needs of the business, the reality is that some demands, although important, are peripheral to your core business. It is also an oft-quoted adage that, in business, you should ‘stick to your knitting‘, focus on your core activities and make sure you don’t get sidetracked into non-core activities. But what if this non-core stuff is nonetheless important? Sometimes, engaging with external specialists to help you run your business can be a more appropriate option. Furthermore, it can allow you to offer broader services to your clients. Sometimes, partnerships with 3rd parties can be a powerful tool.
I can do that!
Sometimes a client might ask you for something that is not central to your offering. It can be tempting to think “I can do that”. By taking on this sort of request, you can grow your own revenue and also stop your client from looking elsewhere. However, this can be a dangerous approach. It might seem like a good idea in principle but there are risks in tackling work outside your core skillset:
- The solution you deliver might be sub-optimal for your client
- Delivering may create additional stress and take a disproportionate level of resource
This combination, whilst generating extra income, risks negatively impacting both your reputation and your profitability.
Just because you think you can do something doesn’t mean you should!
Stick to your knitting
I introduced this idea earlier but it is a really important concept that you should focus on your core strengths. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Have the confidence to concentrate on delivering great value and benefit in the areas where you are most at home. This way you can build your reputation and avoid eth dangers of trying to be a ‘jack of all trades‘.
However, in focusing on your strengths, you are likely to expose gaps in your offering. This can reduce your ability to offer a joined-up approach to your clients. This brings us right back to the idea of surrounding yourself with people who have the skills and knowledge to complement your own. While building your own team of employees might feel the best approach, can you afford the investment while the team comes together and starts to grow your company revenues to pay for the increased headcount? This is where effective collaboration with partners can be really powerful.
As a small business, every new member of staff you add to your team is a big commitment in terms of both money and time. It might be that a better approach, particularly in the short term, is to identify independent contractors or other organisations whose own core strengths enrich and enhance your own. You aren’t just paying someone to do a job, rather you are collaborating in a partnership that allows you to deliver a wider range of complementary skills that deliver a full service to clients without anyone getting bogged down in areas where they are less competent.
Get it right and you, your partners and your clients can come together in a genuine win:win:win collaboration
Effective collaboration: a smaller slice of a bigger cake
It is true that collaborating with independent partners rather than trying to deliver everything yourself can impact revenues as some of the income that you would have earned is now going to your partners. However, effective collaboration allows you to focus on delivering real benefit and value, it is likely that the overall revenue can be higher. You might be getting a smaller slice of the cake, but it is a bigger cake!
You can take this idea further….a truly collaborative partnership needn’t be a one-way street. It is likely that your partners’ clients may have a need for services which are at your core, and peripheral to theirs. Here, it makes sense for you to do the work. Whilst the main objective of a collaborative partnership should always be delivering the best and most effective service to your clients, cross-referral of work between you and your partners can be a logical option. It is a great bonus when it happens, and it’s surprising how often it does.