Collaboration has been vital during the COVID-19 crisis for everyone involved, from governments to healthcare workers on the frontline. Small businesses (SMEs) who have been forced to move operations home, have greatly benefited from the increase in collaboration platform usage.

While things are slowly starting to open up again, collaboration is still a great way to not only support other small businesses but help your own. In this article we’ll discuss why collaboration is important for SMEs, how they can collaborate during the pandemic, how to overcome challenges and why innovation is important.

Why Collaboration is Important

Below are just a few of the benefits of collaboration between SMEs.

More workers to fill in the gaps of your knowledge

Many small businesses are lucky to have employees with a range of skills. However, there are bound to be gaps in knowledge which isn’t a bad thing, it just means you might need some outside help. By collaborating with another small business who has staff with expertise in other areas, both companies now have access to a wider pool of skills.

Opening your business to a bigger market

Collaborating with other businesses can help you reach different groups of people that previously might not have been available to you. For example, if your product appeals to an older demographic but the company you are working with reaches a younger audience, you now have a wider target market to introduce your product to and gain credibility.

More opportunity to learn

Bringing people together with different skill sets, ideas and strengths is mutually beneficial. Employees should take advantage of collaboration opportunities to learn new things that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to. There’s no better way to learn than on-the-job and being surrounded by professionals who are providing you with free knowledge.

How SMEs Can Collaborate During the lockdown

Social distancing and working from home have made it difficult for people to be able to work together, however despite people not being able to physically work with other people, there are plenty of tools that allow businesses to work cohesively together.

Remote working tools

The speed at which companies have had to transition their workers into working remotely has made it more important than ever to have tools available to make it easier for people to communicate and keep projects on track. Zoom, Webex Teams, Slack, and Microsoft Teams have seen a huge uptick in usage in the last few months.

Other popular tools for remote project management include Trello, Basecamp and Monday. These tools help you track tasks, communicate with teams and clients.

There’s even an app called Krisp that cancels out background noise so people can hold calls in peace from both ends. It works with Zoom, Skype, Slack and other communication tools.

Social media

Social media has made it easier than ever to reach out to people who you’d like to speak to or collaborate with. LinkedIn is great for more professional connections, but even Twitter and Facebook can be just as effective. Especially during this time when everyone is at home and online, sending a message should get you a quick response (hopefully).

How to Overcome Challenges that may Arise

While collaborating can be great for both businesses, there are always issues that arise, but these don’t have to stop forward progress. Common issues include:

Poor communication or lack of communication

Poor communication can be due to a number of reasons but checking for understanding is often a common one. Many people who have knowledge in a certain area and discuss it with colleagues regularly can forget that people outside your organization might not be on the same page. The other person may not ask for clarification for fear of looking stupid. So how can you fix this?

  • Two-way communication: listen, don’t just tell
  • Ask for feedback and answer questions
  • Adapt plans or approaches based on feedback

Lack of planning

Every project, big or small, requires a plan. Clear planning is not only critical for smooth collaboration but gives each person involved a good understanding of what is expected of them. Lack of planning leads to many problems down the track including poor communication, misunderstanding of people’s roles and project goals. So what can be done to solve this?

  • Create a clear timeline including budget, resources and scope
  • Set clear goals/objectives
  • State how success or failure will be measured
  • Understand who the stakeholders are and their level of involvement
  • Create a document with all this information and distribute to all people involved

Why we Need to Keep Innovating

Despite the pandemic and many setbacks, it’s crucial for innovation to continue. We’ve seen companies move their digital transformation forward by adopting new technology and different tools. Collaboration with other companies could be the secret to achieving more of your goals.