If what had happened to her, had happened to me, I probably would have made the same vow too.
Gloria (not her real name) was asked to bring her expertise to a collaborative project and she agreed. On the surface everything looked promising and a huge win-win seemed inevitable. Without giving all the gory details, let’s just say that everything that glittered, upon closer inspection didn’t even pass for fool’s gold.
Gloria withdrew from the project immediately and suffered the wrath of angry businesswomen for her decision. She became a social media leper, unfriended and openly talked about for her decision to abandon the project. Those relationships were never the same.
She told me she would never partner with another woman-owned business again. Gloria was wounded by these women’s behavior, and was adamant about leaving the cattiness and viciousness she experienced to someone else. She was done.
Gloria’s story isn’t rare. I know several women who have had collaborative projects that ended in long-standing cold wars that remain to this day.
Good Way to Grow Business
One respondent shared that five PR firms got together and pitched a major grocery chain and won the contract. This is ideally how collaborative projects are supposed to work—clients and vendor both receiving value as a result of the project.
The 1997 U.S. Census stated that nearly 70 percent of women owned businesses had sales receipts of $25,000 or less. If these numbers still hold true, women may either be thrilled or disgusted to know that breaking this $25,000 cap is likely tied to another woman owned business. Especially in today's marketplace.
Collaboration Habits of Men and Women
Recently, the women of the U.S. Congress were celebrated for their collaborative habits in a Morning Edition report. These women were writing bills that went further than the bills of their male counterparts and were able to get more co-signors for their bills. Some suggest that their natural ability to collaborate is the reason anything gets done in congress with all the partisan gridlock currently being experienced in our nation’s capitol.
It seems most men aren’t as quick to adopt collaboration as a viable solution. Kenneth D. Steadman, MBA, a fellow LinkedIn group member had this to say about men and collaboration:
“From my experience, it appears that women don't mine admitting what they don't know and are more willing to form an alliance. Men, for the most part, know everything (or more accurately, THINK they know) so you can't tell them anything, nor do they need help with anything.”
Even with all the horror stories from women business owners, the Women’s Collaboration Project found that for every single negative collaborative experience, there were at least five favorable or neutral experiences. Seventy-seven percent of these same women said they were very likely to collaborate with another woman-owned business in the next 12 months.
Collaborative Helpful Tips
To avoid Gloria’s hurt and public shaming over a collaborative project gone wrong, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself before entering a collaborative agreement.
- Pick the right partner. Whether it’s a short or long-term project, you want to make sure you’re working with the right person. Ask questions, check referrals and follow your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, if something seems off, heed the internal red flag. You don’t have to explain the red flag; you just need to take it seriously.
- Define the purpose. My last collaborative project was for increased brand exposure. I hosted a webinar and had Kaira Boston, The Small Business Whisperer share her expertise. Kaira’s business was exposed to more people and my brand was reinforced for offering quality services. Both of our email lists grew and now we can target more people. Not every collaborative project ends with a big check in the end. Define the purpose; state the goal of your collaborative project.
- Write everything down. Goals, expectations, responsibilities, project length, contact information, you must write it all down especially for long collaborative projects. When you things are left unspoken and undocumented, it leaves the door open for potential problems down the road. Remember Gloria!
More than half of the women surveyed were very satisfied with the type of collaborative project, the quality of their partner, and the communication during the project and declared it a win-win for all.
True, there are ghastly tales to be told by some women business owners about joint ventures gone awry but collaborative projects seem to be more dream than nightmare for most. There’s simply too much to gain with the right project and the right partner.
The Benefits of Collaborating with Women: More Dream than Nightmare
Full size infographic can be found here.
Lisa N. Alexander, aka The Marketing Stylist™ is a small business owner who has her site on world domination! She’s a speaker, author, podcast host and blogger. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaNAlexander. Piece originally published on LinkedIn.