Lack of trust is the number one reason why businesses hesitate when it comes to collaboration. So let’s look at seven ways you can establish trust before formalizing a working arrangement.
- Aligned Values
Just like any relationship, you want to know that the businesses you collaborate with share your values. If your values are not aligned, the relationship won’t work.
Before you start collaborating with another business, start a process we like to call ‘business dating’. Ask questions and have conversations to establish if your potential collaborator is honest and upholds the same ethical business standards as you.
You can do this in person or, if they are in another country, via video call. Do this until you feel comfortable – and always trust your instincts.
- Start slowly
No conversation starts by people giving all their secrets away! Start by sharing information on what your business does, what you think about the market, maybe a problem or two that you are trying to solve.
Give the other business a chance to respond to what you have told them, as well as to let you know the same from their side. You will quickly learn if they know what they are talking about and whether it is worth progressing a collaboration with them.
Together, you may even come up with solutions to the problems you are each trying to solve.
- Due Diligence
While collaborating with anyone carries at least a little risk, you can easily minimize this. If you start slowly and things are going fine, do some research on the company. Find out enough information to make you comfortable.
For example, do they have a website? What sort of presence do they have on social media? When you do an internet search, are there any reviews or comments you can find that let you know what other people think of them (especially their customers)? Do you know anyone who has worked with them before?
- Working Style
I spoke to a business owner recently who told me that shortly after starting a collaboration with another business, he noticed that the other business had a very different working style. This led to a lot of tension.
Do you work all the time? Are their particulars times you will not work? Are you prepared to travel? Are you flexible working with different timezones? Do you like focusing on details or you are a ‘big vision’ thinker?
Exchange this information with your collaboration teammates in an open and constructive way to avoid uncomfortable conversations later.
- Attitudes to Success
Everyone sees success differently. You may see it as an increase in sales, while the priority of your collaboration teammate is to access new markets, and another teammate wants to increase their product/service range.
When there are different views on what success should look like for your collaboration, it leads to each business pulling in a different direction, making it harder (or even impossible) to achieve your collaboration goals and possibly leading to arguments.
Make sure that each collaboration teammate explains to all the others what their goals are and what collaborative success means to them.
Having different goals are not the end of a collaboration. In some cases, there can be more than one goal for the collaboration with an appropriate compromise strategy. In others, you might suggest that the current collaboration has certain goals, and that one or more separate collaboration team-ups is formed to work towards the remaining goals.
What would happen if you are in a collaboration and the client wanted the services of a few of the businesses only, and did not choose you for that particular project? How would that make you feel?
When you collaborate you need to leave ego at the door. A collaboration is a shared vision towards a bigger goal – be that to win more business for each of the businesses involved, or to launch a big idea or new offering into the market. It is important to celebrate every win, even if this does not always include you.
Keep this in mind from the very beginning of your collaborations. It makes your interactions with your teammates much smoother.
- Shared Vision
When collaborators are driven by a shared vision that is much bigger than themselves, it is a source of motivation and inspiration.
Before they formalized their arrangement, two business partners I know were asked what their desired end goal was and how hard were they prepared to work for it. During the conversation, it emerged that in fact, one partner was striving to have a global hundred million dollar business, while the other was happy to exit with much less.
Make sure that the end goal for your collaboration is one that is shared by all involved. Or at the very least, make sure that you can all work towards the same vision while providing a way out for teammates who have achieved their goals before you have.
Even if you have worked with your collaboration teammates for years, or they are your friends, always have a collaboration agreement in place if you get to the stage that you would like a formal arrangement (of course, most collaborations are less formal and so do not need such an arrangement).