Take the time now to make new connections and alliances

In this series of articles, I am exploring the opportunities available to SMEs following the worst of the Covid 19 crisis, or indeed any crisis.

This week’s opportunity focuses on new alliances and collaboration with others. How good are you at networking? Do you have the confidence to go to networking events? Are your business cards and brochures up to date? What do have to offer others? What help do you need?

None of us are as smart as all of us.

No-one knows everything. Now is the time to think about making new connections and business friends so we can help each other. Gone are the days when businesses do not talk to each other. It is not efficient for several people all to be working on the same problem separately. By working collaboratively with others, you are likely to overcome problems quicker, cheaper and more effectively. You are less likely to reinvent the wheel!

Think about joining your local Chamber of Commerce or business association. If you do not think they offer much to you then maybe they need you on board to help them become more effective! Find out what they do. Go to meetings and get involved. Small businesses working alone are very isolated and vulnerable. You might meet other people who have similar problems to you – two heads are always better than one.

Some sectors like agriculture or tourism or retail may have specific groups or associations – they will be a source of useful information and potentially able to influence political decision making.

There may also be groups around specific topics like climate change or marketing or staff training.

If you do not have a business group near you think about starting one. Even competitors can collaborate. If you grow the market for everyone then everyone wins!

You might find it hard to go somewhere for the first time on your own and even harder to say something. Go with a friend or a staff member or business colleague. Don’t rush into saying anything. Listen to others and perhaps next time you can start to tell your story. After all story telling is something we are all good at in the Pacific and we like listening to others.

Many small businesses will always struggle to be profitable on their own. Recently I was in a small cafe which sold cakes made by another small business. Both businesses were finding it hard. They joined forces and started to promote cake and coffee events and now they are both making more money. In the Solomon Islands, small tourism resorts in the provinces are talking to each other about what products they could offer if they work together. One resort has joined up with a couple of tour guides to develop new packages.

Make sure you have up to date business cards or a simple brochure that you can easily give to other people. They do not have to be expensive, but they do need to be accurate, easy to read and in good condition. Make sure you let people know about your Facebook page or website.

Perhaps one of the consequences of Covid 19 will be to bring businesses closer together. After all, the goal of any business must be to satisfy the needs of their customers and exceed their expectations. If we grow the cake then we can all afford to share slices with others!

Next week’s opportunity is all about embracing technology. Do we know everything our laptop can do? Do we know how to make better use of our smartphone? What programmes will make business life easier and more efficient? Can we replace expensive meetings with online discussions using the range of tools available? Are we using technology to help improve the services offered to our customers?

Please contact me with your own experiences and comments and with any specific questions you would like me to deal with in future articles.

Breadfruit Consulting (www.breadfruitconsulting.com) is a Vanuatu-based business providing advice, training, coaching, and mentoring to businesses throughout the Pacific islands. Breadfruit specialises in ‘business continuity planning and action’, helping businesses to survive in a crisis. As a registered Business Advice Service Provider with the Business Link Pacific programme Breadfruit Consulting can offer eligible businesses up 100% fee subsidy. Contact chris@breadfruitconsulting.com or hazel@breadfruitconsulting.com

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