As a small business owner, I have come to hate the word "collaborate". Collaboration has fast risen to the top of super annoying corporate jargon taking over such tried and true buzzwords as "synergies", "strategic partnership" and "can I pick your brain".
The ideals behind collaboration are sound and undoubtedly well intentioned. Literally the word means to "work together", and its popularity reflects a move in workplace culture towards openness and sharing. However, a new iteration of the word's meaning has emerged. To collaborate has morphed into some form of socially acceptable begging for free marketing services. Now every time I see the word "collaborate" in an email, i start to cringe and writhe around in my chair.
As a small business owner, I am well aware of the limitations of time, manpower and money. How I deploy these resources is critical. Being open to new opportunities is important, and collaboration, in theory should be no exception. Fuzzy and amorphous by nature, "collaborations" expect you to do some sort of time-consuming painful dance until you figure out a way that you can work together. Unfortunately, most of the time, I have found there is a great deal of me-ism involved. If you do this for me, I can't pay you or offer you very much in return but I would be eternally grateful and you would be helping me out tremendously.
I am not entirely against collaboration. I just believe that before you throw out the word in a business setting you need to have some sort of plan on what you can offer that is worthwhile to the other side. Collaboration does not take the place of a marketing budget. At this stage, affiliate sales partnerships of unproven products, revenue shares from online seminars and free product are not all that desirable. As my friend Kelly Olexa of FitFluential recently said, I can't pay my phone bill with protein power.
I understand that starting a business is hard. Lack of marketing funds can be frustrating. My partner and I have worked hard to build project eve; we have invested both time and money. So, the next time you compose an email asking me to collaborate, please take a minute to think about what you bring to the table. I am open to all good ideas.