Collaboration – It’s a girl thing!

Don’t cha just love working with women? Collaboration and co-operation are their watchwords. It is our natural fall back position, we do not do competition. Our philosophy is ‘why share a piece of the pie when we can make another pie, a bigger pie, together! ‘ We create and support each other in a multitude of ways.

I have worked with both sexes in business over the years but I am always amazed and inspired by how open and giving women are with ideas, contacts and knowledge. Just the other day, Rachel Ward Lilley, the head of our BIG SISTER mentoring programme at was put in touch with a woman in London who is running the largest, most successful youth mentoring project in the city. Rachel spoke to her to see if she could offer us any advice on our plans to launch a nationwide mentoring programme for young girls in the UK next year and Sue in London ,without a moment’s hesitation, shared her knowledge, contacts, documentation and lessons – amazing!

I see this over and over in the female camp. Women who share a passion or a cause, joining forces to reach a wider audience. Recognising that to compete is a pointless and simply a waste of time and money. Not many ideas are absolutely original these days, you can be sure that whatever you come up with, somewhere, someone is already doing it. They may have a slightly different take on it than you, be doing it in a different city or country and be pursuing individual goals but it is always worth a conversation or two to assess opportunities and potential synergy.

It makes good business sense to extend this initial view of collaboration to other organisations that are targeting the same market with different products/services. As a marketer I recognise this as a key element of any classic niche strategy but still see companies failing to take advantage of this or aligning themselves with the wrong partners. Take the banking sector (please, I hear you moan!) they consistently fail to align themselves with the right organisations. This is because they misunderstand their marketplace completely.

Let me explain…
They continue to assess their brand impact by comparing themselves with other banks and spend most of their marketing resources doing competitor research and trying to be the first to market with a slightly better current account, or interest package, or integrated services or my favourite´┐Ż. A bank account especially for business women?? Same as any other but you get a pink filofax and if ya lucky a female bank relationship contact! Whoopi doo! Hey, I am not bitter or patronised are you?

What banks fail to get is that their market is not other banks it is any organisation that is, or has the potential to deliver financial services to their potential customers ie anyone who needs somewhere to store and gain access to their money! Whilst the high street banks continue to play footsie with one another Facebook is already working on plans to take the market from under their nose and the last time I looked Tesco’s core business is not banking? Nor is Sainsburys and Paypal is not on the high street? Misinterpreting the market and the key players like this can be fatal. Big businesses may survive the re-alignment but a small business will simply disappear.

Collaboration and joint ventures are redundant unless they are with the right partners and embrace a win/win philosophy. For many women the lure of sharing the risk and resources often clouds their thinking. They are seduced by the need to offset some pressure and in love with the idea of being part of a bigger team. All these are absolute benefits of collaborating, but we must sometimes take a step back and consider the commercial sensibilities too. In the social enterprise arena this becomes less of a concern and women are leading the way in partnerships and cause related businesses.

The future of business across all sectors definitely has collaboration at its heart. It’s no longer about selling, it’s about influence; it’s not about products, it’s about value; its’ not about price, it’s about brand and we all have to embrace a more ethical, eco-friendly and inclusive way of working. All of this demands clear positioning, presence and people. You cannot build a business and create sustainable wealth on your own. Collaboration is POWER and this is great news for women as it is one of our many natural talents – go girls!

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