Collaboration is the new black: How to bring businesses together

Have you heard? It’s cool to collaborate!

More and more we’re seeing local businesses banding together for the greater good, boosting each other up and creating an awesome eco-system of people working together at both a large and smaller scale.

 To reflect on the importance of collaboration in our business community, plus provide a few handy hints as well, we asked Gordy Lockhart from The Kollective to share his musings on the subject – one that is very dear to his heart.

Once upon a time business strategy revolved around how to beat the competition – that meant whatever was necessary to succeed as we saw it.

If you were Gordon Gekko from the 1980s movie ‘Wall Street’, that meant buying up corporate assets, stripping and ripping, and selling what’s left. If you hailed from the east end of London, dealing with the competition likely meant leaning a little more on the ripping, a little less on the stripping.

I remember working in a real estate agency in Scotland throughout the 1990s. Fun times and great grassroots learning experience, I tell you.

There were, of course, times when listings were tight, and so word from management was that I needed to be out, trying my best to wrestle listings from other agents on my patch. My service was surely superior – as was the party line – certainly more so than the other fullas.

Now in the end, as I’m brilliant (smiley face), I may well have provided a better service. But the reality was this competition over all else approach likely caused me, said competition, and probably the vendor too some worrisome times and likely significant stress.

What should I have done instead? One word: Collaboration.

Today, together with my amazing team, I operate The Kollective – TK, New Zealand’s largest co-working space, where collaboration is commonplace. TK’s role is multi-faceted, but revolves around the provision of an administrative, meeting and connection base for (principally) the not-for-profit and charitable sector.

We create systemic and operational benefits through shared services, along with workshop and training programmes, aimed at improving individual skillsets. In addition, social and networking functions are aimed at creating an environment where our members are, and feel, no longer siloed. They get that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

Our role is to help create connection and, to the point of this missive, we can enable collaborative practice. The TK team know intimately the service delivery requirements of each of our member organisations and understand where connections can be made.

Last month, a TK member working in the family harm space had lunch with another who ran holiday programs for kids. Discussion got round to how amazing it would be for some of the kids impacted by the family harm environment to enjoy a targeted, funded and well-run holiday program. This would get the kids out of the house into a constructive and progressive space, while also allowing the rest of the family time to work on other issues. Badabing-badaboom! Kids and families lives improved, two organisations needs met. Collaborative practice. Social impact. Job done.

So, turning to the business world, what good can come from collaborative practice in the commercial world where the fight for contracts, clients and the almighty dollar can be vicious?

Gordy Lockhart sitting on a chair at The Kollective

Back to my estate agency story: What else could I have done that would have improved outcomes through collaboration?

The answer? I could have found an interested party for a particular home, a home not listed by the company I worked for. I could have approached the listing company and offered a deal. I’ll give you the buyer and we split the cheque. You get a sale, I get a slice of the pie, the buyer gets a home, and the vendor moves on. Everyone’s happy. Collaborative practice right there.

To get you started in your own collaboration, at TK, we’ve boiled down some quick pointers around getting the best from collaborative practice. It looks a little bit like this…

  • It’s about we, not me: Throw out the idea of WIFM. Success lies in what’s in it for us.
  • It’s cross industry, cross skills: Collaboration is not necessarily about those in the same field as you. It’s more about the ‘value add’. Can you offer a better a service to your existing clients by providing something you don’t already, but that you know can be accomplished effectively by a collab partner?
  • Pick it up, don’t put it down: Collaboration is about mutual respect. Never refuse an initial discussion around collaborative practice. You never know where it might lead.
  • Connect, connect, connect: The more who know of your business and what you do, the more opportunity for collaboration will emerge. Think being a part of something bigger. The Tauranga Chamber of Commerce is a great example. Join up now, they’re lovely really.
  • If you build it, they will come: Effective collaborative practice is built on great relationships. Foster your connections, keep up with those in similar and connected industries. Keep talking and the day will come.
  • $ second, people first: Lastly and most importantly, people are the most important guests at your table. If, through connection and collaborative practice you create a better, improved service or process, the dollars will come. But crucially, that will have happened as a result of the relationships you’ve built, relationships that should last significantly longer than the dollar you made today.

Competition is so yesterday people. Collaboration is the new black.

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