07/31/2014 04:55 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2014

Competitive vs. Creative: Three Steps to Avoid Sleeping With the Enemy and Establish Collaboration Success


The principles of collaboration are wrapped tightly in the garb of our technological revolution. Collaboration has remained and always has been what we deem now "relationship marketing." The nuance of the collaborative relationship rests in the identification of a profitable outcome. It is merely an exchange of value for value.

In my opinion, things get twisted when a collaborative effort is started on the premise of eliminating the competition. This is a false premise based on the attitude that one entity is against another. In the world of internetivity (seems I coined a new termed), we are creating instant connectivity through the internet and our reach is only as far as the next key stroke. The whole concept of finding partners is easier than the early days of the internet when trust was the primary factor for determining if a collaborative partnership was feasible. In today's online community, there are authorities that help us to measure the success of a brand and establish much faster if an entity would be a viable collaborative partner. However, the element of creating the relationship with the entity's owner is still a necessary factor.

I have established many collaborative partnerships during my entrepreneur career. Most worked out beautifully, while others were not so favorable. I formed my first collaborative partnership when I started my nonprofit entity 15 years ago. Starting out in the market place, there were challenges that I needed to overcome. Like most newbies in business, whether profit or nonprofit, I was faced with establishing credibility. Because there is no history of performance, potential partners would not take the risk. Then there was the challenge of not having an established network to help support my vision. Finally, there was a lack of financial resources to implement the program successfully.

"Getting in bed" with the wrong partner (figuratively) when it comes to collaborative relationships is liken to sleeping with the enemy. There are ways to avoid this scenario and create a positive outcome:

  1. Identify the similarities -- Do your research. Uncover the similarities of the entity you want to partner with and take note as to how they express this in their brand.
  2. Identify the differences -- What are the stark contrasts that exist? These are what I define as the holes that you can easily fill with your products or services. This is the area where the next step can be simplified.
  3. Create a solution to bridge the gap -- When completing your assessment, you will discover there is a gap between the differences and the similarities. Here is where your creativity should kick in. The process of brainstorming with your internal team to come up with ways to partner using this gap as the playground for new ideas is the perfect way to formulate a promising partnership proposal.

Great collaborations are built on mutual respect, trust and creativity. The mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make is assuming that just because they are familiar or acquainted with someone that they would make an ideal partner in a collaborative effort. Not always the case. Some ventures will work and others won't, but using the three premises for moving in the right direction is necessary and will help you to avoid a mismatch, save you money, and time.

One final note on collaborative partnerships; they can be formed with any type of entity as long as there is a match in objectives. For example, sponsorship is a form of collaborative partnering. Many entrepreneurs don't fully understand how they themselves can position their brand as a sponsor and come out on top with how other larger brands will view them based on this type of positioning. While this can be the topic of discussion in another article, I will state that in this economy and our fast-track, immediate response world, we must find ways to get creative with exposing our brand and be more proactive with seeking activities that will help us meet our objectives sooner!

Kim Harris, Creator/Visionary - Stiletto Business Strategies for Women Business Owners and the StilettoMovement2014. A seasoned entrepreneur and co-founder of a nonprofit organization, Kim helps women entrepreneurs connect and share value in online trainings and live events. She is the recipient of the Small Business Administration's Women in Business Champion of the Year Award and 2013 Small Business Influencer Nominee. Kim Harris is a published author of several books and has helped women entrepreneurs procure hundreds of thousands in grants and sponsorships to further their purpose and mission. To become a speaker for the StilettoMovement, email