The Power Of collaboration and outsourcing for small business.

The definition of collaboration, according to the Cambridge dictionary, is the situation or two or more people working together to achieve the same thing. 

You can’t succeed on your own. It was a line from a book that struck a chord with me recently and made me reflect more on where my own business has got to in the past 12 months, where I want it to go, and my personal capacity in line with where I want to be with work, life balance. 

Marketing lessons for my business.

I realised a while back that in order to focus on what makes me most productive, provides most business enjoyment for me, and the best chance at creating something for the family, I needed to improve my own skills in certain areas, and outsource to those in more qualified positions than I those tasks that didn’t fit within my circle of ability or influence. 

small business marketing decision
When to outsource, learn a new skill or collaborate?

Even as a small business – a one man band – I needed skills in the business that I didn’t have. It’s a fact of business that, no matter how small, that business is going to need accounting, tax returns, book keeping, marketing, social media, strategy, and admin.

The vital supporting roles that are present in any business enable you to do what you do best.

For the small business, this can be a minefield. Much of the aforementioned roles come with a cost if they were to be outsourced, so justifying the cost can difficult to overcome. 

The best decision I made when starting up was to assign an accountant.

Why? Because I tried doing it myself and I got burnt. I made all sorts of errors on the filing system and ended up getting a bill for late filing and incorrect filing too.

The bill was for about £800 and when that dropped through the letterbox it was quite the wake-up call. I had spent over 3 hours flapping about online trying to save a few quid on the required specialist skills that an accountant provides but instead done it all wrong, wasted time which could have been spent on much more productive tasks and landed a bill which was much, much higher than it would have cost me in the first place to get someone else to do it!

building a collaborative team
Every business needs a supporting cast, big or small.

The power of collaboration.

One of my mantra for modern marketing is to appreciate the awesome potential of collaboration. I believe every small business owner should look at some kind of collaborative venture. 

Another one of my modern marketing rules is to appreciate that opportunity is everywhere. Open your eyes, you will see opportunity around you.

Forbes shared a study that suggest people remained focussed for 64% longer when working in tandem with someone on a project than doing the same project in isolation.

marketing collaboration benefits

A second report suggests that 86% of employees and executives in larger firms blame lack of collaboration in the workplace on project failures

What an opportunity we have as small business to pick up where bigger business is faltering in cultural failings!

I collaborate on many things. From collaboration comes opportunity. From opportunity comes collaborative potential. It’s a very exciting prospect for business owners with limited capacity.

How I collaborate and identify opportunity in business 

  1. My new office and the opportunities it brings.

I recently moved office. Until a few months ago I was working mobile, usually in coffee shops or places in town I could grab a hot desk and get down to work. I also have a home office, though with three kids to keep happy and a whole host of distraction around the house, allowing myself the dedicated time needed to work properly became more scarce. 

I was conscious I didn’t want to stack my overheads. As a small business myself, I need to be cautious not to recklessly add to my outgoings each month. I had a strict budget in mind and, as I see opportunity everywhere, when my office colleague Steve Knapp (The Sales Mindset Coach) asked to view an office space near my home I jumped at the chance. 

marketing and sales collaboration in sheffield
0114 Marketing and The Sales Mindset Coach sharing office space in Sheffield.

Sales & Marketing are now together in one office space. The conversations that happen quite naturally are developing already into ideas that will be delivering huge value for target markets across the UK.

By realising the opportunity to have my own office space to allow for more focussed work, came the collaborative opportunity which will develop in to many exciting projects in the future. This shared space opportunity was a very complementary collaboration.

Our services and approach both align pretty nicely so it makes sense to add value to each other’s offer, allowing our own brands to build and work together on larger projects. 2. Dads In business.

2. Dads In Business

Dads in Business is an intiative in Sheffield which I launched with Men Up North leader and champion of Men’ mental health, Angga Kara. Annga and I have set up this important project to help manage the unique position of being a Dad in Business or position of decision making at work. We have attracted attention from many influential businesses from (literally) across the globe! I can’t wait to see how this develops. It would not be possible without thinking outside the box and seeing how others can bring specialism to a project that would otherwise not even begin.

3. The Boiler Business

In the Summer of 2018, myself and long term colleague and friend of mine, Tommy Lee-Zmuda, of Sheffield’s leading boiler installation company, Big Boiler Shop, whom I have worked with for several years, teamed up to launch The Boiler Business, a supportive training network of heating engineers to whom we offer business and marketing training. This project would not exist if either one of us didn’t open our eyes to the opportunity that our working together had produced. We are ranking top spot on Google, generating all sorts of leads and have built a solid business which we now show others how to do. We have delivered this for heating engineers from across the UK who come to Sheffield to learn. We also have corporate partners to help us build a solid training programme.

The Boiler Business is a fine example of collaboration in practice.

When to improve your knowledge and when to outsource.

A favourite line of mine was from a collaborative colleague of mine, working on The Boiler Business. Tommy said in one of the presentations; Only knowledge gives you choices. What an effective statement. Instead of absolving responsibility for the things you don’t know if you need and then blaming the service provider for not delivering on an undefined or unrealistic target, why not get a basic level of understanding around a topic before deciding to a) do it yourself, b) not do it at all or c) outsource the task.

Budgeting for outsourcing.

The skills I don’t have that mean I need to outsource currently include graphic design, accountancy, PR, sales and event partners.

I could see that I don’t have these skills and I could attempt a workaround without using them, but in reality, I know my business needs them to develop how I like, so I need to find a solution. I can collaborate and find a partner to offer a win-win solution with in exchange for my services or mutual benefit. I could up-skill (I recently attend an Adobe InDesign introductory course to help me better understand the language and scope of the platform to enable me to have better conversations with designers), or I could outsource.

What is your time worth?

What is your goal for a wage? I’ll work on the national average of around £25,000 for this example. For every 8 hour working day working 35 hours per week you are looking at £13.70 per hour. Now, if something is going to take you 5 hours to learn, 3 hours to do and 1 hour to make right, that is 6 hours totalling £82.20. 

I’m certain you could outsource a fair chunk of work, smaller projects even, for £80. What opportunities have you missed by getting your head down and doing everything in your business? Could those 6 hours be better placed? Could that £80 turn in to something more special?

To extrapolate this, if you sent to make £50,000, the cost of the same project, for you to do it, would be £164.40. A sizeable chunk! 

finding time to outsource

Don’t expect miracles from your outsourced team.

One point of order I would say to all those looking to build their support team, network and collaborative partnerships: don’t expect miracles! Your outsourced team is there to take the strain and burden of the tasks you cannot do better yourself.

They are not going to provide a silver bullet solution to your business, nor should you expect them too. For example, my accountant won’t get me new clients (unless I build a referral partnership of course). My accountant won’t get me rooms filled for my training sessions, or members on the 0114 Marketing platform. They won’t write the content, record the videos or build the training. But what they can do is provide me with the time and capacity needed to focus my skills on what matters most for my business.

I’m not an accountant – therefore I shouldn’t try and be one! That doesn’t mean I don’t need the skills within my business that the accountant can bring. 

Summary

Collaboration and working in partnership are fantastic ways to enhance your capacity, your skillset and ultimately, your product offering and business scope. Which collaborative partners can you find? 

0114 Marketing platform is designed to help you implement better marketing for your business.

I always recommend keeping your eyes open for opportunity, which is everywhere! This includes the opportunity to build a level of understanding around the supporting services that are required for today’s business, including marketing knowledge.This is why I created the 0114 Marketing platform.

The platform takes the best from my years of marketing implementation and transforms it into a delivery method that is suitable for the time poor, busy business person.

No one should be ripped off or mis-sold when having marketing or outsourcing conversation. So arm yourself with a sound strategy and understanding of why you are outsourcing or collaborating. Maybe you can do a better job yourself. But without the basic knowledge to know, you run the risk of losing time, money and business from the decisions you make blind. 

Further reading from the marketing blog.