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Collaborate or Be Killed

Don't venture into business with just a one-man army.
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My first business, a construction company, grew in revenue because of collaboration. I looked to other contractors whose businesses had value to me and that I could add value to.

In short, both sides had needs and wants. Instead of seeing others as competitors, these individuals and I saw as opportunities for greater business through collaborating.          

I am using the same principles now in a totally different industry (coaching and mentoring) and the results are also positive. Collaboration works. Let me tell you how.

Most entrepreneurs out there with a kill-or-be-killed attitude, which in my opinion serves only to create a one-man army. 

I have gone to battle in the big wide world of commerce and found that getting people on my team through collaboration lets me create a troop -- even a battalion -- of people working with me to win clients and customers. Once I figured out that collaboration is the rocket fuel of scaling, I started to see it everywhere I looked. 

In June while speaking at Nathalie Lussier's Off The Charts Live event in New York City, I was thrilled to meet the co-founder of Brookvale, Fla.-based healthy living company  Simple Green Smoothies  that has grown its following by using the rules of collaboration. The company invites members of public to contribute their smoothie recipes on its website gaining attention for its products (a collection of recipes and a 30-day online guide). The company also collaborates with other businesses, staging 30-day health challenges that also score promotion for its products.

Related: How to Successfully Collaborate With a Larger Business Partner

Company co-founder Jen Hansard had this to say about collaboration: “Don’t limit yourself to just connecting with people in your specific field.”

“We’ve reached out to incredible people in fields that are totally different than ours," Hansard said about her work with co-founder Jada Sellner. “We’ve been able to help each other’s businesses, yet also connect on a deeper level and build an authentic relationship" over time.

“Don’t hold back on who you reach out to,” she said. “Your story and experience is valuable and can help other entrepreneurs.” 

Entrepreneur Jason Wachob, CEO of New York City-based  Mind Body Green, has a business model that's also collaboration based. His company offers healthy-living courses, events and a website. He invites all sorts of people to contribute to the content to his website. He creates lists from the readers that materialize as a result of that contributed content and then tries to sell them deeper knowledge through paid online courses. 

Wachob told me that collaboration was built into his business from Day 1. He had a great knowledge base and a passion for conversations about wellness but knew he did not know everything. He understood that collaboration would be key to getting not only great feedback but also great content for his readers. 

After securing tons of contributors including industry thought leaders, Wachob became clear that creating policies for how a business is served by collaborating is imperative. Collaborations must be a strategic fit for both parties. 

No matter if you're building roads or blending smoothies, your business can grow if you use these three proven laws of collaborative success: 

Related: 18 Resources to Help You Become Amazing at Acquiring New Customers

1. Be clear about what you do for your customers.

Explain why others should seek out your company specifically. Then list three ways that they can be better served via the insights or assets of another brand or individual. Jen Hansard and her partner Jada Sellner never limited collaborations to anything other than mutually beneficial partnerships that could grow or support both businesses.

2. Think about being of service before being selfish.

Before asking a collaborative partner to give you something, gain clarity on what you can give that party. Approach the partnership with a gift before the ask. Mind Body Green gives people who have passion and deep knowledge of their field a place to distribute their insights into a lead-rich space of people who have self-identified as interested in wellness. For Wachob, it's the whole of all the contributions that makes the site viable.

3. Step out to ask for feedback.

First you must ask another party to collaborate. But then you must be willing to listen to feedback not only on the proposal but also on the work the collaborator will help promote. After all, collaborations are representations of both parties, as The Desire Map  author Danielle Laporte says, the improvement of the end product happens only if you are open to true collaboration, which includes offering opinions and being open to contributions from others with different skill sets. 

Related: A Crash Course on Licenses, Joint Ventures and Partnerships