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How Collaboration Creates Growth For Your SME

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How Collaboration Creates Growth For Your SME

If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative. – Unknown. Perhaps it’s due to the upheaval triggered by the global economic uncertainty or maybe the seeds were planted in the 1990’s but there is more talk about collaboration. This could be an underestimated strategy to growing your business.

Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff write in Co-Opetition: A Revolution Mindset That Combines Cooperation and Competition: The Game Theory That’s Changing the Game of Business about how companies who find complementary purposes and collaborate to achieve profitable success.

A study conducted by Frost and Sullivan and sponsored by Verizon Business and Microsoft in 2006 noted that collaboration produced high positive performance.

# 1. Looking internally, how do people collaborate in your SME?

Collaboration depends on leadership modeling and fostering effective communication. Without effective communication, working well together for a common purpose is not going to happen.

  • How often do you use face to face meetings, telephone, instant messaging or an internal chat service?
  • What messages about working together or solo are predominant in your organisational culture?

Years ago, a client told me that she encouraged honest communication and teamwork. When I learned more about the actual culture of the company, it was rife with conflict and defensive alliances.

If you say one thing and do the opposite, your staff will do as you do. When the leader of the business is willing to act more like a team captain and actively encourages people to interact and participate, there is more ownership and engagement by everyone.

Related: Competition Versus Collaboration

# 2. Now shift your attention externally

We’re all familiar with giving referrals to people in our network. This type of cooperation is certainly transactional in nature. But this is just the beginning of the possible ways we could cooperate and be exponentially better.

SME Community fosters collaboration

One example of a group that makes cooperation a central value is the SME Community formed by Kehlan Kirwan, Debi Harper and Debbie McDonnell. This Irish business network fosters connections and collaboration through the use of social media and in-person events.

Related: #SMEcommunity Story Inspires Irish SMEs


When we look within our network, we might find some very interesting mashups. A mashup is when you take two (or more) ideas from different industries or disciplines and combine them to make a third idea.

Now, imagine what could happen if you formed a partnership with someone in your network. You could express this collaboration by developing a seminar that serves a particular clientele that you share with this colleague or even form  an entirely new business.

The Business Coalition mashup

A good example of a mashup is The Business Coalition , an organisation that assists SME’s and other companies expanding and conducting business in the United States. This non-profit organisation was formed by Dennis Warren (developer of online business news and information sites), Kate McDonough (founder and president of Waterfield Business Center, provider of virtual offices) and Edward Tarlow (founding partner and attorney of Tarlow Breed Hart and Rodgers).

# 3. Redefining how business gets done

While business is understood as being highly competitive, there are business owners who do not espouse that a “go-it-alone” mentality is the only way to grow revenues.

  • By fostering collaboration within your business, you’re encouraging the cross-pollination of ideas and practices.
  • This sets up your organisation to be much more agile, innovative and likely to weather economic turbulence.
  • When you collaborate with complementary professionals and create partnerships, mashups or brand new ventures, you create evangelists and targeted access to potential customers.

Collaborating internally and externally provides the ingredients for  high positive performance of your small to mid-sized enterprise.

Related: Major Collaboration Between Silicon Valley And Dublin’s The Green Way

What examples of cooperation have you seen work well for SME’s? How strong is the current trend for collaboration in the business world?

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Image: “Closeup of business team putting their hands on top of each other/Shutterstock

Growing a business locally or internationally takes a different mindset; the CEO Mindset. Elli St.George-Godfrey, a behavioral economics coach, international expansion consultant and founder of Ability Success Growth, uses her 3 Keys Coaching process to help business owners and executives in the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland to unlock the CEO within. Under her guidance, personal styles are fine-tuned allowing the senior leader to “authentically inhabit” the role of CEO and collaborate with their team more effectively. With this focus on both the people and the organization in which they work, Elli’s market-proven coaching helps leaders and their teams develop styles and capabilities which enables them to collaborate and effectively join together to optimize the business outcomes.

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  • “If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative. – Unknown.” I love this quote! Welcome back and great post, Elli . Collaboration is the new competition, sing it! 🙂 

  • ElliStGeorgeGodfrey


    Thanks for the warm welcome! It’s good to be back!

    When I ran across that quote, I thought it was absolutely perfect! It’s extraordinary how many opportunities to collaborate are present and it seems that people are less reluctant to explore mutually beneficial relationships.

  • Couldn’t agree more. Luckily for us, cloud applications lend themselves so elegantly to this concept, allowing us to forge great relationships with companies like Receipt Bank and DropBox to provide complimentary products for our customers seamlessly integration with our own. And it gives us the opportunity to discuss business growth and exchange mutually beneficial contacts with our collaborators.  Basically making new friends!

  • ElliStGeorgeGodfrey


    Thank you for commenting. Cloud applications and other online tools have indeed made it easy to  make new friends and facilitate collaboration.

  • One of the most successful collaboration and cooperation stories I have seen is right here on Tweak Your Biz (and formerly Bloggertone). The community here is respectful, friendly, trusting, helpful and always open to a bit of banter 🙂

    I am always so impressed both here in Ireland and online, when small business owners get together, great things happen. We know that “going it alone” is foolish, when there is so much support and resources out there to avail of, tap into and contribute to.

    Humans were never meant to be alone, we are social, naturally form alliances, circles and are naturally waring (is that a word?) so whether we are collaborating or fighting, we are doing it with each other.

    Our business can only benefit from this interaction. We could minimise the fighting of course, if we left our fears and pride in the dishwasher with the cereal bowl in the mornings 🙂

    Great post Elli, thank you!

  • ElliStGeorgeGodfrey


    Very true about Tweak My Biz! No matter where we are geographically, this community has demonstrated a willingness to partner up, support, answer questions and have fun. This lays the foundation for good opportunities for collaboration.

    Perhaps channeling our competitiveness or the mindset that business must be about winning all of the marbles is what has to change. I love the image of leaving our fears and pride in the dishwasher with our cereal bowl. 🙂 That’s an excellent first step!

  • Thanks Sian, love em, or hate em we need computers more and more these days so hopefully this helps some people.

  • charlesharper

    I opt for keeping a spare computer, daily automatic backups and paying to “retain” an expert. If you ended up going through all 10 of these steps, you will have burned an enormous amount of time, only to have to ask the expert in the end.

    It really isn’t that expensive.

    These days a good spare computer (NEW) can cost as little as $400 (not the $2-$3,000 we used to have to pay), and we would be well served to take those savings and invest in a system that will keep us going when we get jammed up.

    A $1,000 with a service plan is deceptive, because you can pay that for a solution that will still leave you paralyzed as indicated by your article.

  • Yes that sounds like what we computer people would call a a warm disaster recovery. Duplicate hardware but you need to keep the data independent so that you can cutover with a small amount of down-time.

    But what to you do when some new problem pops up? What happens if someone sends you and attachement that you can’t open? Problem solving skills are always good to have.

  • Yes that’s good too. Thanks for sharing.

  • one word : priceless common sense in a nutshell

  • Thanks for putting this together Niall and really chuffed to be included twice – although in both all I was doing was sharing others’ expert advice.

  • You’re welcome & congrats on your two featured posts 🙂

  • Well done you! I considering calling it the #LornaSixsmithtop10 🙂

  • Thanks Niall 🙂

  • Great post here and very interesting article.

  • I’m pleasantly surprised to find my post here. I’ll have to get my thinking cap on for my next mont post.

  • Hi Bryan, Congarts on making the top spot. Your content is making quite a splash with the readers at TYB.

  • Hi Adam, well done as usual. You and Bryan above are becoming some of the new stars on here 🙂

  • Congratulations to all in the Top10 and strangely enough these contributors rarely need much editing so that says a lot too – i.e makes my work easier 🙂

  • Hi Niall, thanks. That’s awesome to hear – I’ll get some ideas together for my next post 🙂

  • All good examples for anyone that’s thinking of writing for us.

  • Lovely to be included in this – thank you 🙂

  • Helen Cousins

    Goodness me – Niall you wrote an article about evergreen content a year or two ago – it was new to me at the time – it seems ‘evergreen’ does continue to work long after you’ve written it, as these are old articles of mine. Thanks Niall! ~ Helen

  • Hi Helen, for sure. Your article on “accounting mistakes” is one of the most popular on the website and if anything is increasing in popularity over time. Do a search for “common accounting mistakes” on Google and you’ll see it’s right up there.

  • You’re welcome Lorna.

  • Thanks Sian, on-wards and upwards we go! 🙂

  • Thanks for the inclusion, Niall. Glad to be in such great company!

  • You’re very welcome! 🙂

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