Running a business, even as a solopreneur, requires working with other people. You work with clients, vendors, and contractors. And, when you are working on a collaboration, you are working with other business owners or solopreneurs to create something mutually beneficial.
Working on new projects and collaborations can be exciting. But, have you ever started working on a collaboration only to have it turn out to be more frustrating that beneficial? Do you find yourself steering clear of collaborations because you can’t handle the drama? Let’s face it. Working with other people is hard, especially when there is a lot at stake.
Collaboration is a powerful tool to help expand and strengthen your business. Here are five keys to a successful collaboration.
Learn about each other
When starting the collaboration, take some time to learn about each other. You can start by asking open-ended questions to gather information. Find out about her business and why she is passionate about it. But don’t stop there, find out more about her as a person. The more you know about each other, the more you can build trust, which is essential to working together. Ask questions that will give you insights into her working style like:
What do you like most about running your business and why?
What do you like least about running your business?
If money wasn’t a factor, what would you do for a living?
What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work?
Identify similar & complementing strengths
When you know each other’s story, you start getting to know each other’s strengths. You might find you have a lot in common. This is good because you will relate with each other and understand each other more. But when it comes to working and getting things accomplished, it is essential to discover your complementing strengths.
Complementing strengths work together to help accomplish a common goal. For example, as a project manager, one of my strengths is strategic thinking. Not only am I good at figuring out the pieces of a plan and putting them together, I’m passionate about it. My clients are visionaries. They are never short on ideas and can see what they want as clear as day. We have complementing strengths. My clients use their visionary skills to dream big, and I use my strategic planning skills to take their vision and put it into a workable plan. Our strengths work together to accomplish the common goal of launching a project.
You are probably thinking, “I’m not even sure my own strengths, let alone figure out someone else’s.” Well luckily, there is a book, and a assessment, to help you figure it out. Tom Rath’s Strengthsfinder 2.0 is an updated version of the original book and assessment from the Gallup organization, Now Discover Your Strengths. Version 2.0 breaks down and describes each of the 34 strengths and the test, included with the cost of the book, will reveal your top five. Having each person in your team complete the assessment will make it easy to identify each other’s strengths and help you to work together.
Another test to help discover more about yourself is the 16 Personalities test. It’s a free personality test where you can learn about your personality type and how you can work with other types. I’m an INFJ-T, aka “The Advocate”.
Divide tasks according to your strengths
Now that you know each other’s strengths, assign tasks to complete your project according to those strengths. One of the first tasks you should assign in a collaboration is that of project manager. This person is the one keeping track of the steps and making sure each person in the collaboration is completing her tasks on time. This doesn’t mean this person is in charge of the project, they are just ensuring accountability.
Next, it is time to assign the other tasks. It make sense to let the writer do the writing or the designer do the design. But what about the less obvious tasks? Does your project require a promotional element? This task would be well suited for someone who’s strength is being interactive and outgoing. Does your project have a technical aspect? Perhaps this part is better executed by someone with a high level of attention to detail.
But what about when no one’s strengths align with a task? If the task is something that no one is willing or able to complete, it is time to bring in outside support. You can hire someone to do almost any task, including project management, design, writing, photography, promotion…the list is endless.
Leave your ego at the door
Remember, in a collaboration, you are not the boss, even if you are the project manager. This doesn’t mean you can’t share your voice; it simply means all voices should be considered. This can be hard for some of us, myself included. I became an event planner because I like to be in charge. But collaborations need more communication and less ego.
One way to ensure all voices are heard is to make decisions according to your project’s objective. What are you trying to accomplish? How is the idea going to further the project and align with the purpose. Another way is to make decisions logically, weighing costs and benefits. Leaving opinions and egos out of it will lead to a stronger relationship with your team and a successful collaboration.
Get it in writing
All of your planning and discussion for a collaboration could be wasted if you don’t write it all down specifying each party’s roles, responsibilities, expectations, contributions and compensation. With everything spelled out in black and white, you reduce your risk of misunderstandings, miscommunication and any “but I thought we decided…” after the fact. Even if you are collaborating with your business bestie, you don’t want a misunderstanding to ruin a great collaboration or friendship.
Collaborations can be fun and very rewarding but have the potential to be frustrating and counterproductive unless you set yourself up for success. By getting to know your collab partner, understanding her strengths and playing to them, getting rid of the egos and documenting the agreement you’ll be on the right track and want to collaborate again and again.
Find your business bestie! Get exclusive access to resources, trainings, workshops and a hella supportive community full of your next collaboration partners. Click learn more below to start a revolution in your biz + life.
About the Author
Kathy Rasmussen is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of Badassery Magazine and Cohost of Badassery Podcast. She’s passionate about giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to follow their dreams and live a life of happiness and purpose.