Collaboration: Everybody’s doing it!

Tough economic times call for businesses, organizations to maximize resources

 When the times get tough, the tough … collaborate.

It’s difficult to go to a meeting these days and not hear the urgency for identifying partners to accomplish mutually beneficial goals.  Strength in numbers and pulling resources are the buzz words of the day.

Special interest groups have long understand the power of collaboration. Be it the pursuit of legislation or passage of a ballot initiative, these unique partnerships – sometimes formed for just a single issue – have proven that a diverse group can accomplish much together. Remember all those ballot initiatives from the past election season? The majority of these were supported or, more effectively opposed, by a variety of associations and business groups.

Necessity is truly the mother of invention. The non-profit groups have learned this long ago. With shoestring budgets, decreased government funding and a poor economy, they learned very quickly that collaborating with other non-profits reduced overhead and allowed them to reallocate resources to accomplish their stated missions.

Shining examples of the non-profit model of collaboration are found across Michigan. One of particular note is located in downtown Lansing at The Armory, a redeveloped military site that caught the eye of builder Pat Gillespie of the Gillespie Group. He had a vision of renovating a vacant building to house non-profit organizations where equipment, meeting spaces and facilities are shared. Most important, however, is the synergy that occurs when mission-driven people come together, share ideas and put them into action.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder repeatedly calls on diverse groups and businesses to collaborate for the betterment of the state and its residents. Recently, he convened a varied group of business, industry, education and government thought leaders to collaborate on attracting and retaining talent. Specifically, he implored business to work with educators, especially the higher education segment, to develop programs that meet the needs of today’s – and tomorrow’s -- job providers.

Mat Ishbia, former MSU championship basketball player and CEO of United Shore Financial Services in Troy, Mich., was one of those thought leaders on hand to share insights and embrace the call for collaboration. He wrote in Crain’s Detroit Business, “As business leaders, we must work more closely with our colleges and universities to develop programs that best prepare people to fill the jobs most in demand today. We also have to keep our eyes on future talent demands and better prepare for those opportunities.”

Which brings us to the new frontier for collaboration – the Internet. This vast, world-wide, virtual meeting place is rich with literally thousands of examples of collaborative initiatives. Whether it be an exchange of ideas among interested people or a call to action from a coalition of organizations, it’s clear that the world is coming together to solve basic issues as well as the most complex.

Take, for example, the Michigan Energy Efficiency Network (MichEEN), an online community that helps local government, schools, businesses and residents save time, money and effort through the efficient use of energy. The network exists only online and runs 24/7, connecting groups across the state and beyond. Those participating in the network help each other identify energy solutions, share successes and work jointly on problems and opportunities.

As small business owners, we know much about collaboration. It is, after all, how many of us built our businesses – be it through a CEO network or trades with other small businesses. In today’s market, and as entrepreneurs, we know that the right partnerships can generate revenue and grow business.

The challenge, then, is to continue exploring collaborative opportunities … to open our eyes to new possibilities through partnering with others. Alone we survive, but together we can strive.

Lorri Rishar