Whether you have stepped away from the corporate world to realise a long-held vision or are a natural-born entrepreneur, the startup stage of small business presents equal challenges.
Janine Garner, CEO of LBDGroup, says that even more challenging for some is that next level of evolution – when you have reached the ‘I want to expand/look at different markets/take on new staff’ stage. In short, big/bigger/biggest success is around the corner if you can work out how to leverage it.
This is where many small business owners run into trouble – and it’s not from lack of ability, intelligence or even funding. It’s from an innate desire to stay isolated. After all, why did they go into business for themselves in the first place? Because it was their dream, their vision. It’s extremely hard to let go of your own creation and thought space and learn to let others in on a commercial level. It’s not the way we are taught to behave in SME 101.
If you want to turn the small into a medium, and the medium into a burgeoning empire, the key is this: collaborative business thinking. And that needs to happen in several ways.
1. Acknowledge your own commercial strengths and weaknesses
This is the equivalent of doing an intellectual P&L. What are your mental business credits, and what are your debits? We need to realise that there is no failure attached to saying, “I am not the best at IT – in fact, the thought of working out what a cloud-based server is makes me want to smash my laptop.” Similarly, take pride in what you are good at, because that leads into my second point, and the space of commercial collaboration.
2. The currency of today’s collaborative commercial world is knowledge and insight
Why? Because once you have identified what you are good at, you share it. In return, you get what other people are good at to balance your personal P&L. This value exchange means that a number of small businesses can grow from a mutual and equal exchange of services, ideas and concepts without having to realise capital. Each company wins and expands fairly and equitably, and the knowledge bank reaps the interest.
Suzie Hoitink, founder and CEO of Clear Complexions Clinics and a Telstra Award-winning businesswoman knows full well the value generated when businesses collaborate. In 2005, Suzie launched the first Clear Complexions clinic in Canberra. It was an immediate success and quickly grew to four thriving clinics. 2013 saw the first interstate Clear Complexions clinic open in Sydney. The lack of brand awareness wasn’t a challenge and the Sydney market is highly competitive.
Suzie decided to engage her network to deliver media exposure, influencer programs, speaking engagements and client referrals. She understood the opportunity of value exchange, actively gaining business from her network and at the same time giving back to her network of business owners by offering free exposure in her printed magazine, Inner Confidence. Her collaborative partners were offered key placement and marketing opportunities, which they then cross-promoted on their own social media channels driving brand exposure and building brand noise for all parties involved.
This is “Me to We” in practice. A smaller business identifying what they have to trade and recognising the value of a larger network, and the larger network responding to transparent business methods and honesty of purpose and ambition
3. Bravery will get you over the line to your next level of growth
In terms of bravery, it’s about admitting when you need help. This may sound a little Pollyanna-ish, but in simple terms, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. This may be something simple, or it may be something incredibly complex. What it does mean is being vulnerable in a business environment. Do it – and not just with your peers, but with your team. Be brave and ask them for more than just support. Get them to take the lead so that when it comes to expansion, you have equals, not just followers ready to take higher management roles.
4. Find your business tribe
When you are in a small business, there is the temptation to take on the world. Even when you do become part of a larger collaborative atmosphere, there is still a need for an ‘inner circle’ of trusted people who share the same goals, values and business ethics. As you scramble up the success ladder, they will keep you from slipping down the rungs.
Success is not a given. If it were, everyone would be making it big. But if you work in a collaborative and thoughtful way, that small business could be a ‘sky’s the limit’ business.
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Janine Garner is a businesswoman and entrepreneur, passionate about the return to open and transparent corporate relationships and the power of commercial collaboration in future-proofing careers and businesses. Janine is the author of From Me to We: Why commercial collaboration will future-proof business, leaders and personal success, published by Wiley. She is the founder and CEO of LBDGroup and works with senior leaders and business owners to build high-performing teams.
For more information, visit https://janinegarner.com.au