CC BY-NC by Ari Herzog

If you work in a large organisation collaboration is part of the working environment; whether it’s working with colleagues in your department or as part of a multi-functional team. When you’re in a smaller company it’s less in evidence – if there are fewer than 20 staff you could be the only person in your ‘department’.

So does this mean that collaboration is only for big organisations? Certainly not, there are plenty of small companies that collaborate on a project – the web developer works with a graphic designer and a copywriter to create a website for a client – and, possibly a videographer and an online marketing system builder too. That’s collaboration between a number of suppliers to deliver a single project.

But what about when that’s not possible for you or if it doesn’t happen very often? Does that mean that collaboration can’t be part of your business strategy?

On the contrary – there’s plenty of opportunities to collaborate – often disguised as ‘networking’!

Online people get to help each other through platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Ask for help and it will almost certainly be given.

Offline people attend networking breakfasts, coffee sessions, lunches, dinners and more. Some people think that this is how you get business – but if that’s all you’re looking for you’ll quickly find it’s not working very well. Collaboration is the name of the game – who can you help, connect, support, advise? If you start to do this you’ll soon find that good things come to you as a result.

Here’s an example:

Susan sat next to someone she hadn’t met before at a networking lunch. They started to chat and it turned out that her area of expertise was one that his professional body was looking for to present at a forthcoming conference. The original speaker had let them down.

Although this was not her target market Susan decided to help out and made a very successful presentation. What she didn’t know was that someone in the audience was from an influential consultancy – and contacted her to work on a contract for a multi-national organisation. She would not have made it past the reception desk any other way and this turned into an ongoing lucrative contract.

Networking is asking for people who are willing to collaborate on a specific task – whether that task is finding you a good supplier of widgets or introducing you to someone you want to talk to about potential business.

Of course, the other side of the coin is being willing to do your bit for others too – and I must admit I always get a buzz from ‘plugging people in’. If someone says “Does anyone know a cartoonist who does film?” my mind immediately starts scanning my network for likely connections. Being able to put the two people together is very satisfying.

So how have you got collaboration integrated into your business strategy?