“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” is an African Proverb that you may have heard before, and certainly applies to business.
While going quickly might sound like a good thing, it’s pretty easy to go no where fast, or at the very least in the wrong direction. If you look at all of the “greats” in the coaching industry, very rarely will you find someone that found success completely on their own.
Today we talk about why collaboration is the key to taking your business further than you ever thought possible, who you should be collaborating with, and how to find them.
In High School, I was in the a-cappella choir and no, it was not nearly as cool as Pitch Perfect.
Just in case you aren’t familiar, a-cappella is essentially singing without any music or instruments accompanying you. With no piano or other instrument guiding you with the notes, there is no point of reference other than the music that you’re reading and those that are singing with you.
Unless you are a very talented musician, with perfect pitch and the ability to read music, you’re going to have a very difficult time standing alone. There are so many nuances in a song, opportunities to fall flat, or ways to fall of track that can make a song sound completely different.
Running your business alone is a lot like trying to sing a solo a-cappella.
Working alone is hard. When you’re going solo you’re having to figure everything out on your own. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’re learning as you go. You might take a course or read books to learn the information you think you need, but information isn’t enough.
Even with all that information, you’re still having to figure out how to bring it together by yourself. You have to make decisions on things that you are very close to, and it’s difficult to know if you’re song you’re singing is the same one you began with.
The easier way to run your business is to harmonize with those around you.
If you look at any super-successful coach you’ll notice that they have a posse of collaborators around them. They have mentors that are leading them, they have colleagues that are collaborating along side them, and they have a team that helps everything run smoothly.
This posse of collaborators help you to stay on track by showing you new ways, acting as a sounding board for your ideas, and supporting your vision by making sure you stay on track.
The tendency for most coaches is to operate psuedo-alone.
That might mean taking courses to learn about how other people are finding success, or participating in groups where you can ask questions. Even though you’re “collaborating” in a way, you’re still operating psuedo-alone because essentially you’re anonymous. You may be asking questions, and getting feedback on ideas, but they are in isolation.
On the other hand, if you had someone you were consistently collaborating with, they would see the bigger picture behind your question, or be able to give you an outside perspective on how that new idea might affect the rest of your business.
Pseudo alone is maybe one step above being completely alone, but it’s still not going to get you to where you want to be in your business.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you had your very own posse of collaborators?
In my experience, there are Four different types of collaborators:
1. The Mentors (not to be confused with dementors 😉
Mentors that have gone before you, and can help guide you with their wisdom, their experience. They already know the things that you haven’t encountered yet, that they’ve already been through and gained experience from. Mentors are fantastic because they see ahead of where you are right now and can help give you fresh ideas and avoid pitfalls.
2. Your Peers.
Peers are the ones that hold you accountable and play alongside you. There’s so much to be said for having people around you that are in the same place you are. People that are sharing the experiences as you are experiencing them. They don’t necessarily need to be able to have the experience or wisdom in your industry to be helpful. They just need to be able to hold you accountable, empathize with you and what you’re going through, and celebrate with you when you have successes.
3. Mastermind Buddies.
A mastermind buddy is a combination of a mentor and a peer. Usually they are someone that has expertise in an area that you don’t, and you have expertise in an area that they need as well. They could be in your industry, or in a completely different industry. These are the people that can help you brainstorm and act as a sounding board.
The mentor relationship is usually a top-down relationship, where you are listening to them, and their wisdom. In a mastermind relationship sometimes you’ll be listening to their wisdom, and sometimes they will be listening to yours. It’s a give and take relationship, where you are both guiding each other, adding on to each other’s ideas, and in some cases poking holes in each other’s ideas when you see something that the other person does not.
4. Your Team.
Then last but not least, your posse could also consist of a team of people that are expertly skilled in their area of expertise that you don’t necessarily want or need to be skilled in yourself.
These experts could include virtual assistants, web developers, writers etc. Whoever you are outsourcing activities to, that don’t necessarily require your creative power and expertise. Your team helps you be much more effective because they’re more skilled in their area of expertise than you are.
All of these people, and any combination of these people can be your posse.
Even with a posse, you’re still a solopreneur because you’re in business for yourself.
It’s still your business, except now you have backup. You have people that are in your corner that are going to help you play a much bigger game and grow much more quickly. And in times of need? You have your posse to lean on.
You might be wondering, where do you find collaborators?
Chances are you probably already have some in your corner that you may not even realize, are your posse. Sometimes you can start by formalizing those relationships, or at least starting to think of them in a different way as being people that will fill these roles that we’ve talked about. Formalizing can be as easy as setting up a quarterly or weekly meeting for collaborating, or asking if you can put them on your S.O.S speed dial (and vice versa) for your business.
The mentor, the mastermind buddy, the peer, the team. Start to think about the people you already know in these roles, and how you might utilize their talents to move forward in your business much more quickly.
You don’t need many to have a posse, even one person in one of these categories means you’re singing a duet instead of a solo which is many times easier.
Let’s say you’re starting from ground zero and don’t know anyone yet who fits these roles because either you’re a hella-introvert or just starting out.
The best places to find new posse members is at networking events, conferences, and through other coaches’ programs and courses. I know that may sound easier said than done, after all I’m about as introverted as they come and don’t make new friends very easily, but I can tell that it can be done.
Here are just a few tips for making new friends and meeting collaborators:
1. Show Up Consistently.
While the idea of networking until recently has always given me the heeby jeebies, I have found that the key is not to “try to make one connection” as people will tell you to. The key is to show up consistently. Pick a group or two, and attend their meetings like clockwork. By the third meeting people will begin to recognize you and come talk to you – which for an introvert is usually the biggest hurdle.
2. Be Active.
If you’re in a coaching group or taking a course, be active and participate. In any group there are going to be the wallflowers that remain anonymous and do their own thing, then there are the people that engage the leader by asking questions and demonstrating what they’re learning. While that may not come naturally it only takes commitment and stepping out of your comfort zone in a pretty doable way.
The pay off is that not only will members of the group be more attracted to you and come to you for collaboration, but often times the leader will also become a closer friend and potentially an ongoing mentor.
As an example, when I was in Michal Port’s Book Yourself Solid Coach Certification program, whenever he needed help with something, I would volunteer. I even organized an entire telesummit with all of the other coaches, in return I made many new friends, got a lot of new business, and Michael mentored me for my first few years in return for me helping with small things behind the scenes in his business.
3. Direct Outreach
Okay let’s be honest, this one takes cajones and can be scary as heck but is usually the most efficient. All it takes is 10 seconds of courage (and maybe a few hours crafting the perfect email *wink* ) to reach out to someone you admire and see if they’d be interested in getting to know each other. You’d be surprised at how open people are when you are coming from a very real place and true desire to get to know them.
4. Be Open
The other thing is to recognize opportunities when they come. Be bold, and say, “Yes,” to things. Some of my best friends have come from spontaneous opportunities that I said “Yes” to.
For example, back in 2009 when I was just getting my start I happened to have the opportunity to talk to one of the speakers at a conference I was attending. Low and behold we actually lived near each other (even though we were a few states away at the time).
Now, keep in mind, I was in my early twenties and this woman was well beyond where I was in my business, she was speaking at conferences I was attending, and generally just pretty hardcore, I was surprised she was even giving me the time of day. What happened next? Out of the blue she says “Hey, how about I skip my plane and drive with you home?” my jaw about hit the floor, and over that six hour drive we became fast friends. Eight years later we’re still mastermind buddies and my kids call her Auntie!
While you may sing a really great solo, your song will become even more beautiful when you surround yourself with collaborators.