As we mentioned in the section on building trust, one of the main drivers that people have when they’re networking is that they are looking for people to collaborate with.
Many people find themselves setting up as one man bands (independent consultants) later in life after a lifetime in a corporate. While the corporate world has some real downsides, if you are an expert in your field it has a number of advantages that the small business owner doesn’t have.
- People to do your admin for you
- People to do your IT for you
- People to do your selling for you
- People that your skills complement to make a complete offering.
However life as a 1 man band is different. You have to either pay someone out of your earnings to do all the above – or you have to do it yourself.
It’s a truism that if you are delivering services yourself you can’t sell when you’re delivering and you can’t deliver when you’re selling. So you might consider forming a little gang of like minded people whose skills complement yours and form a consortium.
This lets you share the load of bidding and spreads the cost and time of customer acquisition. The importance of this can be judged from the preliminary returns from the research project. The average organisation spent about 14 hours on marketing per week which is what you might expect given that most were selling business services, less than half turned over more than £100,000 and employed more than 2 people.
So if the ratio of promotion and admin to delivery is approaching 1 to 1 it makes a great deal of sense to form a collaborative gang which will allow you to deliver a more complete offer to your client as well as spread the load of tendering.
Once trust is developed and you are in a position to start collaborating, the current development of the internet has made life very easy for you. Most of the tools you need, both for online networking and for collaborative working are either free or comparatively inexpensive.
You can even share subscriptions to streams of leads. Many government tenders are notified on portals like http://www.sell2wales.co.uk and http://www.direct2.gov.uk while you can also subscribe to services like Skillfair which will direct particular types of contracts your way.
Apart from email, the main tools you need are a tool to deliver voice over IP (VOIP) which will let you hold conference calls and run chats plus a document repository where you can store documents, manage the email threads and generally work collaboratively. It’s only about 8 years since that was effectively beyond the resources of even a 20-50 person company. So the power of broadband has effectively changed the balance of power for the individual worker. Effectively all you need is a laptop with a wi-fi broadband connection and you can work anywhere. More to the point you can project manage from anywhere too.
We’ll review the tools that you can use next time.