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  One of the most critical determinants of success in hard times is collaboration, especially with potential alliance partners.  Just as we expect our employer to work with us to help us through tough economic and personal challenges, and vice-a-versa, so do we expect the same from the government – initiatives that focus on teamwork and contribution of varous elements that, if taken together, create a win-win situation for everyone involved and helps people and groups to survive (eg, tax and compliance costs).  Collaboration, whilst not a new concept, is one that can be used in an innovative way.  It comes in two forms – informal and formal. 

  Informal efforts to collaborate are steps taken internally that seek to make things easier for clients and suppliers, employees and managers, but we do not necessarily announce them as they typically form part of the regular response to daily business needs. They are initiatives that might include, for example, lessening demand for immediate payment (nice to have but if we know a client is working well and will survive and grow why annoy them and lose a client that is a good one but struggling at the moment with cashflow), increasing flexible work hours (maybe lessening electricity and other office overheads as part of a team initiative), and being more open on team finances to promote both ownership of expenditure and ideas to both grow and save.  The list is long and often takes place as we try and put ourselves into others shoes, pull together, and make things as easy as we can for those we work with.

  The formal way of collaboration is more of an announced and structured initiative, and often externally focussed.  Typically it involves looking at options for working with competitors rather than against them in some areas (e.g. sharing services, brokering referrals for specialist skills, sub-contracting etc), developing initiatives to make things easier such as payment stretched out over several months, and developing alliance partners (e.g. developing work opportunities where we do not have the skills but know a company that does, and referring the work to them in exchange for a percentage or quid pro quo arrangement).  Unfortunately it happens least often.  Why?  Because we expose ourselves (ie. our reputation) to the risk (terrible I know, pride, after all makes us revenue – not!) of others thinking we may be struggling or desperate.  We are doing neither.  Rather, we are looking for opportunities to find business, grow (survive), and assist others along the way. 

  If done well, with a clear understanding of boundaries, services and skill sets available, collaboration with another company can add significant leverage to growth.  So, who can you collaborate with, on what, how and when?  Who do you need to approach?  What suggestions do you have to make and, most importantly, how can you successfully promote win-win outcomes through cooperation?

  The best part of collaboration?  It is most easily achieved with small companies due to inherent flexibility and doesn’t need to stop when the economy improves.