Have you watched Toy Story?
Do you remember the scene where Woody encourages the other toys to find a ‘Moving Buddy’ so they do not get left behind?
If you are running a business single handedly, or even if you employ a couple of people, then I encourage you to follow Woody’s advice and get yourself a ‘Micro Biz Buddy’.
Rest assured micro business owners. You are not about to get shipped out of your workspace by some over sized removal company created by Pixar. But what you may find, if you don’t buddy up is that you get left behind when opportunities arise to carry out large pieces of work.
Alternatively you could be spending far too much time trying to do something in your business that a ‘Micro Biz Buddy’ could do in half the time. Let them get on with the things that do not thrill you while you earn more money doing the things you enjoy the most.
I am a huge Ambassador for partnership working. The ‘Power of Plenty’ is much stronger than one lone voice in the darkness. But I am also very keen to retain my own business identity. My own brand is very important to me in the businesses and organisations I run. And because your brand is how your business is identified it should be important to you too.
- Joining forces with other micro business owners does not mean you will lose your own business identity and become some large corporate conglomerate.
- Developing an Associate network where you all deliver the same high standard of work in your specialist fields gives you a much bigger skill set to draw from.
- Ensure you respect each other’s abilities and own business identities. Even if you know your Micro Biz Buddy well, set out terms and conditions for the piece of work you will be doing together and ensure all Buddies, whether 1 or 21 of them, understand and agree to the t’s & c’s.
How to find your buddy
The thought of finding your Micro Biz Buddy may fill you with fear. After all you could end up with Rex the Dinosaur or Mr Potato Head! I suspect if you are concerned about building a group of associates you may also have a fear of networking as well. It’s not vital you rush out and find your associate the minute you have finished reading this. And you might find these guidelines useful whilst networking and hunting out your Micro Biz Buddy.
- Creating a network of people around you that have confidence in your product or service is a great way of having far more people to promote you for free.
- Think very clearly about the skills you need to help improve the product or service your business delivers. It’s easier to find the best Buddy if you are very focused on the skills you need your Buddy to have.
- Start with people that you know well that you feel you could work with. Family, friends or former colleagues that have skills that you know your business would benefit from.
- Search social media and see if there are people in your area promoting the skills you have established you need and link with them. If you know people that they know use this as a ‘warm lead.’
- Do not rush in to anything. Good relationships can take time to build and you have to be happy working with the associate or associates.
- Only agree to do one piece of work together to start with.
- Remember, you have not employed these people so if working together does not go well then you do not need to do anything together again. They may not have enjoyed working with you either!
If you work on your own, building your associate network can be a great way of ensuring you get out and about and meet people. It encourages you to go along to networking events, though do ensure the events you attend attract the type of people you need. Networking can be expensive. So research the type of industry sectors the network you are considering joining attracts. If the attendees are people that will not benefit your business or your personal development then do not feel compelled to join. Instead find a different networking organisation that will bring rewards.
Think Collaborators not Competitors
In my business I know what I am passionate about. I understand what areas of work I either cannot do myself or really do not want to do because they do not motivate me. I do not turn this work down if a client needs it doing. Instead I consult a host of Associates that I have built relationships with over the many years I have been running my various micro businesses. It’s important that we focus on the area of work we are passionate about. There will always be someone out there that really enjoys doing the things you dislike or do not have the strengths to deliver to a high standard whatever they may be.
For example: If you are a website developer that is great at coding and all the technical bits but you are not strong with design then why not link up with a Graphic Designer that can ensure your websites with great functionality also look good as well. You may loose a contract because you do not have the skill set to deliver the complete package to the standard that the customer requires even if your part of the work would have exceeded their expectations.
I regularly deliver workshops to people who are just starting on the path of self-employment. When I get to the part that encourages people to go and do competitor market research I always encourage them to consider how those competitors could become their customers. This may not always be in the literal sense but if those we consider as competitors can help generate income for our business this is most definitely a positive thing. If your are a hairdresser working on your own in a salon is it not better to refer a customer to someone you have built a relationship with if you are fully booked so that hairdresser then does the same for you. Your customer will be happy and is likely to come back in the future because you did not turn around and say ‘Well it is a week from now or nothing’ what you actually said was ‘I am sorry I haven’t got any appointments at all for a week but I can recommend William down the road’ – everyone is happy.
Running a micro business can be lonely at times and having a great band of trusted associates can bring a host of benefits:
- People to turn to when you want a bit of advice or have an idea that you just need to share without someone taking it as their own or even if just want to have a moan.
- A strong network of associates are great at promoting each other, word of month is the best form of marketing and it’s free.
- Having a group of associates that use similar products may enable you to share cost or increase savings if you can buy greater volumes.
In the adapted words of Woody ‘ A Micro Biz Buddy – if you don’t have one, get one’. You will find this helps to take you to infinity and beyond bringing a whole host of benefits to your micro business that you did not think you would achieve on your own.
Over to you
Do you have a micro biz buddy? Have you engaged in any collaborative working practices with other micro business owners? What was the experience like for you? Please let me know in the comments below.
Today’s Micro Action
Who’s your Micro Biz Buddy? Who could work with as an associate? Spend some time today figuring out your extended network and identify those individuals who you are best attached to work with. And then start building those relationships.