Collaboration can be exceptionally powerful, and if done correctly and cleverly, it can escalate a business to the next level.

ALICIA BEACHLEY 
CEO
APRIL5

Collaboration defined is: ‘the act of working together with another or others on a joint project, or something created by working jointly with others’. Personally, I think it is much more than that; it is the power of what can be produced together as a sum of the parts.
Being open to collaboration is the first step; not thinking that by collaborating you are going to share ideas and lose out to the competitor or compromise your identity or brand is the second. It is our nature as businessmen and women to be protective and I am not saying don’t be, however, when you work with others who you trust and who have the same values and integrity levels, the partnership can be very beneficial.

Collaboration comes in many forms. Whether it is within individual businesses in terms of achieving goals and innovation, or when it is two mutually beneficial partners working together to achieve common goals for clients and each other.
A large part of what I am talking about is in the approach. Particularly in the past it has been common practice to make claims of ‘all things to all people’ and when our clients asked if we could do something (and we knew we couldn’t) the tendency was to just say yes and worry about it afterwards.

By collaborating and being transparent about the collaboration, you can bring to the table experts who are the best in their field and then present as a united, specialist front, without having the overheads of having the discipline in-house.
There is also much power in collaborating for new business, new clients, new suppliers, even staff. I know of very successful models where agencies are sharing staff and working together, opening networks and supporting each other.
I feel that it is important that we broadly embrace these models and practices for the common good of our wider industries. This is particularly relevant when we are faced with tougher economic times and sometimes it’s just not practical to have a certain skill set on staff.

Take creative services… as an agency we always outsource these as we find we get the best ‘look’ for the job we are doing. What I need for a technology client is very different to what I need for my retail fashion clients, and I can achieve much more by working with the relevant teams to deliver the best outcome for my client.
The key is in finding the like-minded partners that you want to collaborate with and then working on the terms, so that there is no ambiguity. There may be no other reward than the sharing of information but if there is to be some sort of financial remuneration, this needs to be openly discussed and agreed upon before any sort of arrangement is entered into.

When it comes to direct competitors, while they do pose potential threats to our businesses, coming together in the spirit of industry-wide initiatives to raise awareness and give back is vital. As an executive committee member of the Australasian Promotional Marketing Association (APMA), I see first-hand the benefits a combined and collaborative approach brings to our members who are all working in the same space and competing. The power of these sorts of industry bodies and groups to bring about industry change, launch education programs, host networking opportunities, raise awareness among key target audiences including media and clients and even lobby government is phenomenal.

While I am not of the ‘collaborate or perish’ school of thought, I do believe that collaboration is a powerful tool that should be embraced. If we increasingly take a collaborative approach to the daily operations of our businesses and in promoting and enhancing our industries, we will be all the better for it.

Alicia Beachley is the CEO April5. She can be contacted on Alicia@april5.com.au

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