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In today’s competitive marketplace, entrepreneurs need several tools at their disposal, but collaboration is one of the most powerful. The rise of coworking spaces in major cities across the country is just one sign of how employers have taken note of this fact.

Collaboration can mean many things for a small business: it can comprise sharing knowledge and fostering cooperation across your organization, as well as connecting with other small businesses in your industry and beyond. Knowledge is power, and sharing yours can be the greatest gift you make to your organization.

Internal Knowledge Sharing

Employees need information to fully engage with their employers’ vision. There’s no better way to empower your workforce than to regularly communicate with them and create a culture of collaboration. An atmosphere of transparency has the power to negate distrust and promote cohesion and teamwork. 

Sharing knowledge on customer needs, strategic initiatives, strengths, weaknesses and threats allows workers at every level of the organization to contextualize their roles and join forces to meet shared goals. Additionally, when each and every employee is considering how to improve a process or overcome a challenge, it will expedite your organization’s problem-solving capabilities and help save you money, too. 

Sometimes it’s impossible to know at the outset who holds the integral slice of insight, ingenuity or vision necessary to ignite your business growth, so consider opening the lines of communication to absolutely everyone. The wider net you cast, the more perspectives you harness, increasing your chances for long-term success. 

External Networking

Most small business owners know the benefits of networking first-hand, but if you’re one of the few that doesn’t want to commit the time, think again. Networking widely can transform your business, earning you new customers, opening up new business channels, and inspiring you to address your greatest challenges head-on. 

Often, the most efficient way to solve a problem is to learn from the successes and failures of others. What tools have helped other thriving businesses improve productivity, enhance marketing, or handle accounts receivable most cost-efficiently? What operational process improvements could you implement to reduce errors and create capacity? 

Answering these questions provides a clear advantage to your business. We never know who has crossed a bridge that most resembles the one we’re facing and it’s not always the usual suspects. Never underestimate the value that multiple professionals bringing different backgrounds, skill sets and strengths to the table can provide each other. Sometimes the answer lies outside of yourself, your immediate circle, and even your industry. So make the effort. In the long run, you’ll see you’re saving more time than you’ve lost. 

Strategic Partnerships

Just as in choosing a housemate, a good strategic connection creates benefits for both parties. Consider formal partnerships a key way to jump-start business growth. Formal collaborations with outside organizations can help you capture more market share for less money. Depending on the type of arrangement you broker, you could be splitting work, intellectual inputs, and expenses. Whether you’re sharing marketing costs, research or development investments, or even office space, you’ll be reducing your new customer acquisition costs, creating a sure path to efficient expansion. 

Thought Leadership

Finally, after solving a key business challenge, consider paying it forward. Share with others your methods and how they can leverage similar strategies in their own organizations. Sometimes, the simple act of teaching others will help you develop a deeper understanding of an issue, which will fine-tune your own implementation of the solution, as well as provide a marketing platform. Promoting yourself as a thought leader elevates your company’s brand. It also leads to more networking opportunities, yielding more business and faster growth.

When we don’t know the answer to a problem, our first instinct is to seek advice from others, whether a friend, mentor or business partner. Follow that instinct. By building collaboration into the DNA of your company, you’re setting the stage for a wealth of unexpected benefits that will organically fatten your bottom line.