We had a few handicapping mindsets that, according to my observation, did not help to build the business.
One such mindset was how we perceive collaboration with others. Quite a few partners felt that we should only collaborate with companies who are bigger and stronger than us. No point collaborating with smaller players.
This mindset was also tied to a sense of inflated self worth – “We have a strong brand, we should only work with the big boys. Smaller players are not worth our time.” Yet none of the big boys, not even smaller players, were knocking at our doors.
At the core, this mindset was about us versus them, win-lose, and scarcity mindset. We wanted to have the upper hand in collaboration. We wanted to take, and we were not willing to give an inch. At the core, this mindset screamed out loud that it was a dog-eat-dog world, and we had better watch our own backs, cos others would eat us alive if we let them.
Once, I connected a friend of mine to the team to explore collaboration. My friend ran an English tuition centre, and she had a fun, effective and innovative English program. We only offer Maths and Science programs, so there was a perfect synergy and no conflict of interest. My friend proposed a collaboration, where she would supply trained teachers and curriculum, while we supply the premise. Both sides would pool together their existing clientele for cross selling. On the surface this looked like a very promising collaboration to me.
Steve and Bruce, however, did not share my enthusiasm. The other two partners, Chad and Chris, were quite neutral about it, but I could see that they probably saw more potential challenges than potential benefits. I did my part to facilitate a few meetings, and in the end, the collaboration fell through. I remember one of the reasons given was that, my friend’s centre did not seem to be doing very well. So it’s more like they were trying to leverage on our clientele and our brand to help themselves. Furthermore, the team was rather alarmed that we might have to pay for some marketing materials. The impression I had was that we were expecting my friend to bend over backward to try to work with us, “because we had a strong brand and a strong centre.”
What killed my interest to drive the collaboration was when the team questioned me in the chat, on whether I was getting any commission from my friend, or was I also a partner in my friend’s company. Such suspecting attitude was the surest way to send the message of “No thank you, we are not interested in collaboration.”
Looking back, I can now see that many in our team not only lacked the intention to collaboration, but they lacked a proper framework for win-win business collaboration.
While a suspecting and wary approach is not going to help things, one also should not be gullible, or act on blind faith.
There are best practices in collaboration which should be abided, to safeguard against any miscommunication and misalignment. You can find a few great tips here
I came up with some pointers to help my tutor community to reap the benefits of collaboration and networking, and to minimise any unpleasant experiences, or even soured relationships.
(1) Be as clear as you can at the onset on the EXPECTATIONS from both parties
(2) Be as clear as you can at how to EXIT if the collaboration doesn’t work out
(3) Arrange a timeline to REVIEW the status of your collaboration, should you continue or to end it. For example, 6 months after we start working together, let’s sit down to assess whether we still want to carry on
(4) Stick to what has been AGREED. If there need to be changes, both sides need to agree. Otherwise it is a breach of agreement.
(5) PEN DOWN your agreement on all matters. An email to capture all discussed items, and acknowledged by both parties, can be a good starting point.
(6) Don’t feel obliged to charge less than a fair PRICE for your work. We are all quality educators who give our best works, and we should be compensated fairly. Being a fellow member of TA should NOT put you under obligation to under-charge for your work.
These are some pointers that I learnt from my own past failures. (I failed a lot, so I learnt a few lessons too). Many of us are far more experienced and far wiser than I, please feel free to chip in with your own advice on best practices of collaboration.