Business Planning: How to Collaborate with Other Small Business Competitors

For small business owners, collaborating with your small business competitors can be a win for both sides.  Really, you say.  Yes, really.

The Why: Both Small Businesses Win Through Collaboration

First, get your hackles down if you are hyper-competitive. If you are a small business owner, from solopreneur to four employees, the world is huge, and you have your hands full just running your business. Fighting your competitors to the death is not typically top on your list.  Next, decide how many clients you need at your price point to make the profit you desire and pay all your expenses including interest and taxes.  I know some of you have complicated business models and you can’t put an exact number on it.  No worries.  Do NOT use that as an excuse.  Keep it as simple as possible for this exercise and make your best guesstimate.  That’s your magic number. Keep that number in mind.

Next, ask yourself if you can reach that number faster and easier if you collaborate with other small business owners. That’s like asking if corn grows tall in the Midwest in the summer!  Of course you can grow faster through collaboration. Can you also meet new colleagues and make new friends along the way, increasing the joy of owning your own small business?  Absolutely! This part of collaboration might even become as much fun as being a kid opening a new toy at Christmastime.

Let’s explore three ways collaboration is a win for both sides. As you read this, please understand that you won’t want to collaborate with just any ole competitor. Only certain ones will do. Try to be the competitor people do want to collaborate with.

Referrals

The easiest way to collaborate with your competitors is through referrals. Let’s face it, not all potential clients you meet are a good fit for you. However, they might be perfect for another small business competitor who practices within a different niche or who has a different delivery style or personality. Make the referral! You have probably dodged a fully-loaded freight train headed your way, and your competitor has a new client. You also have their gratitude.  People who are grateful often refer back.  

Trends and Best Practices

Most small business owners play in different niches and they become experts in their areas. When you take the time to network with them you can *both* share the trends and best practices you have seen in your industry.  You can share articles and digital assets that are of interest to both.  By upping your game through this type of collaboration, you are increasing your personal brand value and also making sure you are serving your clients at an ever-higher level.   

White Labeling

Many solopreneurs start out working for larger agencies, also known as boutique firms.  The agencies hire professionals like you to do the work they have contracted for and bill it under their agency name.  For our federal and state contracting folks reading this blog, this is sort of like subbing to the prime, only it’s on the “other side of the fence” in the corporate/small business world.

The agency owner is usually a small business owner to the core, so they will understand you.  Be honest and let them know you also have your own company, but you are excited about helping them grow as you are also growing your own business. You will work together to set up contracts and boundaries, decide who has contact with the agency client, etc. 

Conclusion

These are only three ways competitors can collaborate. There are many more. In our small business world, we do not need millions of clients.  We are not Toyota, GM or Ford selling millions of cars.   We need that magic number you worked out a few minutes ago.  Remember that number and go get it!

Collaboration among small business owners is one of the tenets of our MEG groups, where members meet for an hour each week to work on, not just in, their businesses. We work together to help each other grow. As I have facilitated groups through the years, I often find the winners are small business owners in the same industries who collaborate.

Collaboration is part of smart business planning. We include it in our 1-1 coaching sessions and our small business assessments.

If you have questions, please contact me at info@startuptogrowth.com or message me on LinkedIn

Note:  MEG (My Entrepreneurial Group) meetings are currently held on Thursdays. Meetings, or POWER HOURS, include Cowork, Conversation and Educational segments. Membership also includes educational videos about critical small business topics.  The MEG membership rate is affordable for small business owners. It will increase in August 2022.

About Robin Suomi, Founder, Startup to Growth.  Robin has worked with thousands of small business owners in industries from A to Z, from solopreneur to 4 employees, from launch to $5M in sales. Startup to Growth offers affordable 1-1 Coaching and MEG (My Entrepreneurial Group) membership with POWER HOURS and educational videos to help you work on your business, not just in it. More information on all coaching, MEG and business planning services at Startup to Growth.