Business is ruthless. Business is ultra competitive. Business is about winning. It is all of these things until it is not.

Sometimes it is about collaboration, about working outside of the box, about doing something together.

There is always risk involved in collaboration and it not the right approach for everyone. That said, small companies can elevate themselves and their partners if they embrace relationships that are more than sub-contracts to suppliers.

In the consulting and business services areas (where market research is firmly positioned), big companies all compete over the same claims usually rooted around the trifecta of (1) full-service; (2) quality; and, (3) experience. Price becomes the final consideration and because the claims for 1 to 3 are all similiar, the result is a commodification of the product/ service.

Small companies tend to stake out territories based, for example, on an approach to the insight or on  a set of experiences (e.g. industry-specific expertise). By definition they are rarely comprehensive and while they compete they are a natural place for collaboration.

When I launched my own company I had very little interest in just building another version of companies I had previously worked for and have embraced opportunities to partner with other organizations. By doing so I get rewarding experiences — the client often gets better results.

The latest strategic partner is Experience Renewal. Experience Renewal is an innovative company that thinks about research differently. Up front is storytelling not traditional research reports. Weaving a story from multiple sources of information allows for a richer understanding of the customer experience. It is a great opportunity to partner because I support the philosophy and bring expertise to the table around the quantitative insights part of the story.

Collaboration is clearly different from outsourcing or contracting out. When it works, there is a seamless integration of the companies. The client will feel that the company is working as one. It is particularly important in areas where the work cannot be easily portioned. You can sub-contract data collection but how do you sub-contract the executive summary?

Do you embrace collaboration? Is there a way for you to improve your product or service through working with someone else? What’s holding you back?