Colony’s next business event is a collaborative one with a large number of other support groups. I was asked recently why I would collaborate and openly promote other business support and networking groups when I run my own networking group and wish to attract future attendees.
My answer is simple: The focus of a networking or business support group must always be end-user experience and not the aspirations of the group’s owner, leader or management committee. As a natural consequence, there are then huge benefits for all parties in a mutually-respectful collaboration.
From personal experience, the benefits of a collaborative business strategy have included: Better Customer Experience. Extended Reach. Associate rather than Competitive relationships. And Skillset and Cultural Fulfillment. Let me start with the most important in my mind – Customer Experience.
Customer Experience = Extended Reach for All
As we enter our 6th year, Colony has never deviated from its vision to keep business local, from its strapline ‘Success in Numbers’, nor from its commitment to support business owners with information, contacts and skills. The success of our group depends entirely on an honest and customer-driven desire to offer value and service. If we’re not the most appropriate group, logistically or culturally, for the attendee, then we should not hesitate to pay it forward and recommend another group. In turn, they may choose to refer back to Colony and here lies one of the benefits of collaboration. Focusing on customer experience may mean turning away a prospect or delivering little more than a referral elsewhere but the cycle of benefit may well come back around. Extended reach and success for all. We’ve frequently run joint or collaborative events. We refer work to other groups. And we get regular referrals back. At our upcoming event on 27 April, Colony invited 53 groups (yes that’s accurate) who are active in Warrington and surrounding areas to participate. These relationships are just as valubale as prior event attendees or future propsects.
Associates not Competitors = Skillset and Cultural Satisfaction
The first thing I did when I set up my first business in 2007 (KJBS – before Colony days) was to google and then contact all local competitors to introduce myself and ask if they would like to collaborate. I knew there might be occasions when I couldn’t meet demand or when the work might not match my skillset or values. Having back-up associate contacts to refer to in the same field is invaluable. I’ve never under-estimated the value of working (and networking) with competitor businesses. All too often at networking events, I’ve heard people say ‘oh no, there’s another x here too doing the same thing’, ‘what would we have to talk about’, ‘I’ll try to sit separately’. The value of knowledge-sharing, empathising over problems, contact-making and possible associate work is ruled out in an instant with that approach! There’s plenty of room for everyone (that can genuinely do the work of course). People buy from people after all and will make a choice as much on personality, organisational values and cultural identity as they will on skillset, practical logistics and content. Translated back to Colony, the services (‘skillset’) and culture that we offer may not suit everyone but by ensuring we work with Associates (not Competitors), we can satisfy a contact’s search for a specific skillset or culture by referring to another group; and we remain loyal to our own set of values. Collaborate effectively and competitors become associates, and associates become part of your customer service strategy.
In summary then – Why Collaborate?
To remain customer-focused, to extend your reach, to turn competitors into associates, to ensure delivery of the best option or advice, and to ensure that value is added to your business relationships.
‘Networking Central’ is a collaborative event on Wednesday 27 April in Warrington involving over 20 other networking and business support groups, 7 speakers, and 2 charities. For more information, click here