November 12, 2021


Collaboration is often the only way for startups to begin growing and expanding their reach. With budgets being tight for many small business owners, collaborating with other companies is a great way to access new projects, clients and markets.

Collaboration offers the opportunity to learn from others and benefit from bringing new skills to your business without having to employ someone. An entrepreneur can also feel lonely, which is why it’s good to work with others – collaboration can help you stay motivated and productive.

1. Join a business support group

Becoming a member of a business support group, trade association or business organization is a great way to meet other businesses and build collaborations. Many founders prefer to do business with people who are part of the same community. So, by joining a group and being an active member, you will likely find other entrepreneurs interested in working with you. Most groups offer events, online directories, and other opportunities to connect.

2. Host a joint event

Partnering with another business to host an event is a good way to reach a wider audience. It could be an event to educate or inspire your customers, a product launch or even a party. Consider sharing the cost and promoting the event widely, which will allow you to host a much larger event for less cost than if you were on your own.

3. Skill Exchange

Skill swapping can be very useful and cost-effective for start-ups with a limited budget. A designer, for example, can provide a logo to a social media expert in exchange for digital marketing advice. A photographer might arrange a free photo shoot for another business owner in exchange for the opportunity to use the images on their marketing brochures.

Networking events and Facebook groups are all places where you can meet other business owners willing to share their skills.

4. Cross-promotion and co-branding

Look for complementary brands that might be interested in co-branding.

Partnering to cross-promote each other’s products or services can be an effective way to increase awareness and enter new markets. A jeweler, for example, could partner with a fashion brand, or an accountant could partner with a marketing firm to refer clients to each other.

You can promote each other’s products or create a specific event or service that brings the two brands together.

5. Hold a contest

Partnering with another brand to host a contest in which you both offer a prize is a great way to generate interest in your business. You’ll reach new people because the other brand will let their customers and followers know about your business.

Use social media to promote the contest and encourage participants to take actions such as signing up for your email list or following you on social media. Services like Rafflecopter and Woobox are useful tools for running online contests.

6. Find a mentor

Many experienced entrepreneurs are willing to work with new business owners to share their advice and expertise. It’s a good idea to find someone who has experience building a business in your industry.

Before you start looking for a mentor, ask yourself why you want one. Is it someone who can give you feedback, listen to your challenges and help you find solutions? Or do you want a more action-oriented mentor who tells you how to run your business? These are two different things that will lead to different mentors.

Once you know why you want one, look for people who you think would be willing to help you. Attend business events, use social media, and ask friends and family for recommendations. You can also join business groups to meet more experienced entrepreneurs.

7. Social network influencers

A very modern way to collaborate is to work with social network influencers. At one end of the scale are celebrities with millions of followers on platforms like Instagram. At the other end are micro-influencers who may only have a few thousand followers but have strong engagement with a specific group of people.

This tactic works especially well for product companies. You can either pay influencers to promote your business or offer them free products in exchange for a review or mention. There are advertising rules for using influencers to make sure people aren’t misled. But if you find the right influencer who has a strong following in your target market, it can generate a lot of sales.

8. Joint work offers

If you’re a service company that bids on projects, submitting a joint bid with another company can give you access to larger clients that you wouldn’t be able to serve alone. This may require a formal joint venture. You can also opt for an arrangement in which one company serves as the prime contractor and the other as a subcontractor. Consult an attorney for advice.

9. Rent a space and do a pop-up

Many startups begin to grow when they realize it’s time to move from working from home to an external office. With the relaxation of pandemic restrictions, hybrid work – spending part of the time working from home and part in an office – is also a trend for startups.

Workspaces can be expensive, so one way to cut costs is to rent space from another company. This could be a few desks in their office or a space in their retail store. Some stores also offer other small businesses the opportunity to rent shelves in their store to sell their products.

Temporary pop-up stores can be an effective way to reach customers, so you can partner with other brands to run one. Pop-ups are also a useful way to test business in a physical environment before committing to your own full-time retail store. Landlords are increasingly open to small businesses renting their properties for short periods of time to set up pop-ups.

10. Recommendations

Setting up referral programs is a good way to generate sales. You can either work with other businesses to send you new leads in exchange for a fee, or you can incentivize existing customers to do so. You can reward customers with promotions such as gift certificates or discounts on future purchases.

There are several ways to set up a referral system. In its simplest form, a business can refer customers to another business in exchange for a commission or a share of the revenue the customer subsequently spends. More structured referral programs – known as affiliate programs or affiliate networks – are developing online. Large organizations such as Amazon or affiliate networks such as Awin pay a commission to websites that refer customers who then purchase products and services.

Buying a franchise is a great way to start your own business. With the backing and support of a parent company and the ability to use its brands and systems, it’s easy to see why new franchises have a higher success rate than traditional start-ups.

However, simply buying a franchise does not guarantee financial success. Running a franchise involves as much commitment, determination and hard work as running an independent business. While the franchise concept, system and location can play an important role, it is ultimately your actions as a franchisee that determine the success or failure of your business.

The key to a successful franchise is having the right attitude from day one. By continuing to make wise choices along the way, you will further increase the chances of your franchise’s viability.

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