Rather than a last resort to cut costs, for the majority of those surveyed, collaboration represents a key element of their business plan, with over a fifth choosing to share office space and 31 per cent sharing their workforce with another company.
“Sharing with other companies enables start-ups to access resources they might not otherwise afford, as well as providing greater flexibility, reducing overheads and improving the bottom line,” suggests Zipcar UK’s general manager Mark Walker, as the following examples outline.
Westaways Sausages and Nythe Farm Kitchen
Charles Baughan, owner of multi-award winning Devonshire sausage firm Westaways, is a major advocate of SME collaboration, having witnessed first-hand what working with other small firms has done for his business.
Already successful in its own right, Baughan has been able to expand his company’s market through a partnership with local firm Nythe Farm Kitchen, which specialises in providing cooked meats to the corporate catering sector.
“In the UK lots of companies are large processors with huge turnovers, but they are quite inflexible,” Baughan commented recently to the Meat Trades Journal, explaining, “SMEs like ours can dodge around the big businesses, adding value and being flexible by exchanging skills with others.”
Bottega and Donna Ida
Fashion business owners Sam Brightmore, of small boutique chain Bottega, and Donna Ida, behind the denim brand of the same name, are another pair to have discovered the advantages of co-operation.
The pair initially made contact through Twitter to share appreciation for each other’s’ collections, but have since found there to be significant cost savings in joining forces on international buying trips.
Hayling Studio and Rosie Loves Vintage
Hampshire-based photographer Hana Venn is another case where working with another business proved mutually beneficial. By teaming up with local vintage shop owner Suzi Rose, Venn was able to source props to enhance photo shoots at Hayling Studio for free, offering to create product shots for the Rosie Loves Vintage website in return.
“Since photographing her shop and products, other local businesses and wedding suppliers have seen the work I have done for her and hired me for their own businesses which has been amazing,” Venn admitted recently, speaking to the Guardian.
As these successful partnerships convey, a collaborative approach can allow small businesses to diversify their business, overcome cost barriers and win new customers.
These substantial benefits underline the value of opportunities for the SME community to come together, forging ties to enable them to help each other to grow.
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