There’s safety in numbers, and when you own and operate a small business, it’s easy to feel alone. Much larger companies will often have entire departments dedicated to various tasks, but in the initial stages of a startup, one person will often be the accountant, sales manager, product developer and everything in between. It can be daunting and overwhelming. However, there is a valuable tool that business owners have at their disposal: collaboration. If you’re unconvinced of the importance of collaboration, or just never really engaged in it, here are a few reasons you may want to reconsider.

Collaboration Means Learning From Others

One of the biggest benefits of collaboration is the opportunity to learn from others. It can be easy to look at other small businesses in your industry as competitors, but I’ve found that most other owners are more than willing to help you grow and avoid the mistakes they’ve made. Some of these connections are the most important ones you can make – the value of a mentor can’t be understated.

As a small business, it’s easy to become insular. Working with others allows you to see other possibilities for conducting business that you may not have considered. Remember, this is mutually beneficial. You’re learning from others, but they’re also learning from you.

Collaboration Grows Your Network

Collaborating with others allows you to grow your network, and it often does so with a hands-on approach where you can demonstrate the value of your product. Being successful requires that you are constantly expanding your professional connections and developing new avenues to grow your operation. Working with others is valuable in providing you access to those people.

Collaborations Expand Your Customer Base

I love beer. I love trying new beer. There’s a lot of beer out there. When I want to try something new, I look to see if there are any collaboration releases that involve my favorite brewery, Boulevard. Turns out Boulevard released a tropical pale ale with a small brewery out of Florida called Cigar City. It was wonderful. Because they’re willing to put their reputation on the line and vouch for their partners, I ended up learning about a new brewery that also produces a high-quality product.

With that dynamic in mind, it’s important to work with others because it can dramatically increase your exposure. It also doesn’t have to be between others in your particular industry – I’m in the coffee industry and we’ve worked with musicians, realtors, event centers and even a dog daycare to create cross promotional projects. None of these were obvious partnerships, but that’s what made them important. They expanded our brand into new markets. They were also fun ways to get creative with our marketing.

Fortunately, small business collaboration doesn’t have to require a large investment of time or resources. It doesn’t have to be a formal project, either. Working with others can only help to grow our businesses in the community and foster a spirit of entrepreneurship.

Andrew Montee
Head Roaster

Andrew Montee is the Head Roaster at Mokaska Coffee Company, a locally owned and operated wholesale coffee supply business. Mokaska focuses on delivering small batch, specialty coffees to restaurants and businesses in the Midwest.