In the business world, it's easy to get caught up in competition. After all, unless your small business is incredibly niche and offers a product or service that no one else does, you're likely going to either lose sales to or take sales from businesses that are similar to yours. If you want to survive as a business, you'll need to compete—you’ll need to spend at least some time thinking about how to make your product or service more appealing than what other businesses offer. But you might also want to consider collaborating with other businesses!
Even though competition is a natural part of the business world, we at B2BeeMatch are huge fans of collaboration—something our business networking platform was designed to facilitate. We believe that competition isn't the only way to succeed as a small business. Like our bee mascot, we believe in the benefits of collaboration and creating an interdependent ecosystem where we can all help each other grow! So instead of directly competing with small businesses like yours, you might consider joining forces so that everyone benefits.
Keep reading to learn about a few different ways your small business can save money by teaming up with others.
Types of collaboration to consider for your small business
There are many different collaboration opportunities to consider for your small business. Not all of these will work for every type of business, but there's likely at least one kind that could work for you!
- Alliance is a type of collaboration that usually includes two or three businesses working together on a temporary project, combining resources for a common goal.
- Co-opetition is collaboration with direct competitors. This type of collaboration deals directly with the potential of losing business to a competitor, and makes it easy to save money by sharing knowledge, skill sets, equipment and other resources. If competitors are working on similar complex innovations, co-opetition also avoids the possibility of duplicating work. Co-opetition is a natural fit for competitors interested in working on large-scale projects that are too big or risky for one party to manage alone.
- Portfolio collaboration is when larger companies oversee collaboration with many smaller businesses. This type of collaboration is usually longer term than an alliance, and it can help to forge connections between multiple small businesses.
- Community collaboration means working with other businesses within either your local community or your customer community. This could mean anything from business partnership to mutual brand promotion.
- Network collaboration is similar to community collaboration, but rather than a geographic community, networks are often composed of businesses with similar goals and values that are committed to supporting each other. They might refer customers to each other, team up on projects or lend resources. This is the type of collaboration you can find through B2BeeMatch!
- Ecosystems include long-term relationships between groups of businesses who may not always work on projects together, but have set a precedent of supporting each other and working together if the need arises.
Find the type of collaboration that benefits you as a small business owner
There are many different ways to collaborate, depending on your business size, niche and community. The type of collaboration that works for you might also change as your small business grows and develops. For example, you might start with a portfolio collaboration, benefiting from the network of a larger company to form connections with other small businesses and successful entrepreneurs. As you get to know other businesses, you might realize one is a good fit to form an alliance. As you start to become better known in your field and face competition from businesses of a similar size, you might realize that co-opetition is the way forward. There's no one right solution—it all depends on what you want for your business, what the community around you is like, how much competition there is in your field and multiple other factors.
Ways collaborative relationships can help your brick-and-mortar small business save money
Now that you know some of the forms business collaboration can take, let's take a look at some concrete ways it can save your company's hard-earned money. The key benefits of collaboration will be different depending on the type of company you run—whether your business exists in a physical space or on a cloud-based system with remote employees, whether your product or service requires physical tools and resources or your entire business exists virtually, and so on. Not all of these methods of saving money will apply to your small business, but at least a few will.
Collaboration can reduce marketing expenses for business owners
One of the simplest ways that nearly any small businesses can collaborate is through promotion and marketing efforts. Two small businesses that offer similar but not directly competing services can jointly advertise or actively promote each other's products or services. For example, a barber and a hairdresser might offer similar services which are easily paired, but offer significantly different options: Hairdressers are more likely to see women and barbers are more likely to see men; barbers offer shaves while hairdressers may not; hairdressers offer color and highlights while barbers may not. The clientele are different enough that the two are not likely to often be in direct competition, but the overlap is significant enough that saving money on shared ad space makes logical sense. They might even agree to refer clients who ask about a service they don't offer, share each other’s posts and promotions on social media, or display each other's business cards and brochures in their respective businesses.
There are many possible combinations of businesses that are similar enough to share ad space and promote each other, yet different enough to not take customers from each other. For example, a jewelry store could collaborate with a clothing shop, a personal trainer with a fitness brand, and so on. A business networking platform such as B2BeeMatch is a great place to start looking for other businesses to collaborate with in this way!
Collaboration allows your company to save on rent and utilities for office and retail spaces
In the same way that they can share ad space, small businesses with key similarities might even be able to share the same physical space. For example, if a new sneaker shop needs retail space but doesn't have enough product to fill a store front, it might team up with a skateboard company. These two items often go together and the customer demographics are similar, so the two businesses can each save 50% on their monthly rent and utilities—not to mention the added bonus of sharing customers who might visit with one item in mind and impulse purchase from the other retailer as well. Businesses located near each other might also be able to share storage space for large pieces of equipment if both can easily fit resources within the same space.
Collaboration can save money on resources and tools
If you run a small business that requires specific tools for the job, you might want to consider sharing the cost of equipment with a similar small company. For example, two small landscaping companies in the same area might be able to share expensive equipment if neither needs access to it every single day. In an area where customer demand is much higher than one company can manage alone, teaming up to divide work and share the cost of resources makes sense for both parties.
Collaboration can save on supply chain costs
Have you ever been frustrated at the cost of transporting stock to your small business? Perhaps you don't need as much stock as a larger retailer, and you're frustrated at the amount of empty space in the truck when it arrives at your business. If you're geographically close to another small business that needs similar stock, you might be able to make an agreement to order from the same supplier and book space on the same truck. You could both save on transportation costs—and reduce traffic and carbon emissions at the same time!
Don’t pass on occasions to improve the efficiency of your business through collaboration
Ways business collaboration can help your online-only small business save money
Maybe your small business doesn't have physical merchandise or retail space. Like us, you might be a business that only exists virtually. We haven't forgotten you! In addition to the ways we’ve listed that brick-and-mortar businesses can team up to save money—sharing marketing, tools, space and transportation—there are many ways that online-only businesses can collaborate and save big!
Collaboration can mean increased brain power and quicker solutions to problems
One way for online-only businesses to collaborate is to get two teams working together on one project that's bigger than either team can handle on their own. As we discussed in a blog post on the benefits of workplace diversity, diversity of thought can help a business growth. Introducing a few new minds to your problem can generate new ideas. Of course, you'll have more brain power and experience at your disposal. But, on top of that, interacting with new people is likely to inspire your team members and lead to an increase in productivity and innovation—as well as happiness.
If you don't have a physical space or aren't near enough to meet in person, online collaboration tools are making virtual communication easier every single day. Cloud technology like Google Drive, which allows document collaboration, has made this kind of collaboration simple and affordable.
Collaboration can help you learn from each other's mistakes, avoiding financial blunders
In addition to boosting your team's collective brain power, collaboration can help both your business and the company you team up with to learn from each other's mistakes. Forget learning your lesson the hard way—your new teammate has already done that and can tell you what it was like. Now you can simply avoid trying ideas that your trusted partner knows won't work!
Collaboration can increase your customer base and brand credibility, reducing risk
The majority of businesses around the world are small and midsize companies. Collaboration creates opportunities to expand the business reach of small and midsize companies. For example, teaming up with one or more small businesses might allow you to extend your reach to big clients or big projects that your company couldn't manage on its own. This kind of collaboration might give you access to your partner’s customer base, and those customers might be more likely to trust you and your brand specifically because they see you working closely with a company they already know and trust.
If you are a business owner looking to grow, business collaboration might be the key to success in your industry
Business collaboration is more than saving time and money for your company
Although reducing annual expenses for your small business is a worthy cause, one of the biggest benefits of collaboration is not financial but relational. If you're focusing on a win-win situation for everyone rather than only considering competition, your company culture and employee experience is likely to benefit too. Business collaboration can result in happier employees and more positivity in the workplace, and that is likely to result in improved productivity and, of course, an improved bottom line—a symbiotic cycle, rather than a vicious one.