“Just because they offer the same type of business as you do, doesn’t mean you have to slash their tires!” writes Karen Baring as part of her introduction to a session she is delivering for me at our Journey 2 Success conference on June 5.
Now what you may not know is that Karen and I walk this talk. She heads up Busiwomen, a large group for women entrepreneurs in Oakville and to many, we may seem to be competition. Yet for years, we have been meeting up, comparing notes and where possible, supporting each other. In fact, we are planning to give a workshop together on the power of collaboration and partnership, just to show that it can be done.
I was reminded of this after hearing Michelle Marko Harasym talk at a Company of Women luncheon where she shared how she is sharing her space with several other providers and was always looking for ways to support everyone in the “collective.” All are reaching out to the same audience, but doing something slightly different. And to Michelle it made sense for them to come together, share space and costs, to make their businesses more effective.
The other part of working together is that you reduce the isolation you can feel as a solopreneur. When Karen and I would meet, we knew the other would understand a situation the other faced and we would laugh, problem-solve and commiserate with each other.
Likewise, we’re working together to offer programs in Toronto with Leigh Mitchell of Women in Biz Network. Our collaboration makes sense, especially in a city where new groups are springing up every day. Together we are stronger.
What are the key ingredients to working with the “competition?” Mutual respect is key. You have to like and respect what each brings to the relationship. Common and shared values is another crucial component, because while your goals may be slightly different, how you get there – working with integrity – is the important element.
Now regrettably I have had my share of partnerships that have gone sour and when I look back at why, I have come to realize that I leapt into a relationship because I saw great potential, without doing “the background” check, without finding out what made that person tick and learning why they were doing what they were doing.
I remember working with someone in BC to deliver a conference, and by the time we actually met, the relationship had gone south, mainly because he didn’t respect what I brought to the project. Making a ton of money, for example, has never been a driver for me, but it was for him. Making a difference is and that can change the approach you to take to project.
If you are thinking of collaborating/partnering with someone, my advice – date first. Find a mutually beneficial project that you can work on together to test the waters and the relationship. Document who will do what, so there’s no misunderstanding and be clear on what you both want to get out of the project.
And talking of out, build in an “out” clause so that if the deal isn’t what you thought, you can remove yourself without too much pain. No one wants a messy divorce.
Company of Women
I have had an eclectic career from running non-profit organizations and being editor of a national magazine, to working for government on women’s issues. In 2003 I launched Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business. A prolific blogger, I also write for the Huffington Post, and several other online publications. I am the author of five books on women and entrepreneurship, and co-author of Good Enough. Embrace who you are. Unleash your brilliance. which is available on amazon.ca In June, 2016 I launched Full Circle Publishing offering one-stop services to get your words out into the world.