Each week, I receive dozens of invitations to collaborate in new business ventures of one kind or another. I decline nearly all of them because I do not want to spread myself too thin. When I do enter into a collaborative relationship with another entrepreneur, I generally do so because the collaboration has very specific characteristics.
Whether it's sharing a table at a show, participating in an affiliate program, being a guest in a tele-summit, or whatever, I know that many of you receive collaborative invitations regularly as well. This post shares the seven basic characteristics of a powerful collaborative entrepreneurial venture, based on my experience over 15 years in business. I hope it helps you quickly discern whether a proposed business collaboration is worth your time and energy.
1. There is clarity and definiteness of purpose
If the opportunity is all about the other person making money, building a list, etc., and you are just along for the ride, it's probably not a good deal for you. Make sure that the opportunity is fully described up front so that you know exactly what is expected of you (in terms of time, money and other resources), and what you will receive in return for your participation.
Lack of clearly defined obligations and benefits is a sign that an opportunity is not very well planned. The last thing you need as a busy entrepreneur is a poorly defined time suck.
2. A proactive and experienced leader is in charge
The person in charge should have a history of leading successful collaborations. If their history is filled with great ideas that never came to fruition, you can't expect much different to happen when you are involved. Consider collaborative ventures only with people who have a history of making things happen.
3. Everything is negotiable
In business, everything in negotiable. If someone tells you it's their way or the highway, run the other way.
Donna Maria, Indie Business Network
4. Your gut feels good about it
If your gut tells you that the opportunity or the person behind it is not a good match for you, politely decline. Don't feel guilty if you cannot put your finger on exactly *why* you don't feel right. Your gut is there to save you from heartache and trouble. Let it do its job. If it doesn't feel right, politely decline. Don't worry. If it's for you, it will come around again.
5. It's not a “pick your brain” time suck
From time to time, I have been invited to schedule a “quick call” to talk about a great idea that will be really good for my business. Of course, it's a super innovative opportunity that no one has ever seen or done before, and it will be “really good for your members too.” Whenever I have agreed to these calls, without fail, the person on the other end of the phone ends up wanting to pick my brain — for free — about their great idea. These “opportunities” to provide complimentary strategic feedback and direction always end with me feeling used.
I avoid this issue now by clarifying in advance exactly what the person wants to talk about and exactly what my role is in the conversation. If I don't like how it feels, I refer to Number 4, above.
6. You are viewed as a partner, not just a contributor
Successful relationships are the result of mutual respect and admiration — one person for another. Look to collaborate with people who see you as a fully vested partner, with just as much to offer as they do. If you're treat like you're just along for the ride, get out as soon as you can because it's likely to be much more of a win for them than for you.
7. There is parity of contribution for all involved
The best collaborative ventures result from working with people who bring as much to the table as you do. For example, if you have a strong and established audience and you're being invited to participate in an event with people who do not, this lack of parity does not bode well for a successful collaborative business venture.
You only have so much time to devote to collaborating with others before your focus is dangerously diverted from your own business. Make sure you invest your limited resources in arrangements where everyone involved brings as much to the table as you do, so it's truly worth your time and energy to participate.
As I look back over my list, I realize that I may have left some things out. What do you think? Did I miss anything? Is my list to rigid? I would love to know your thoughts and feedback in the comments below, or share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.