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Contract collaboration

Partnering with other firms is an option worth exploring for small businesses looking to take on large contracts, especially when they are concerned about their ability to service deals many times larger than anything they might have taken on before.

Collaboration has many benefits. For example, working closely with another enterprise or enterprises may expose you to practices or strategies that you could apply within your own business.

Working together in a sub-contract or joint venture arrangement could also give you the scale necessary to compete with much larger organisations and access markets that would have previously been out of reach.

Small is beautiful

Most entrepreneurs want to retain control of their business but also crave growth. Collaboration is a more straightforward alternative to merging two or more different enterprises and if the arrangement doesn’t work out, it is a lot easier for everyone to go their separate ways.

There are many ways of finding potential collaborators. The first place to look is among existing customers and suppliers as they know your business and how you operate, but it is also worth tapping into specialist or national trade bodies.

A collaboration may be a more informal arrangement than a merger, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the due diligence. Your business will be judged on the behaviour of your partners, so you need to make sure they have a similar attitude to customer service and delivery.

Meeting of minds?

It is also important to find a partner that you can get along with. Working on a large contract will place everyone under pressure so it is vital to be able to discuss any issues that arise professionally and amicably.

All parties need to understand that by presenting a united front to win a contract, the client will expect the relationship to run smoothly. It might be worth testing the water with a small scale joint project before pitching for a very large piece of business.

Collaboration agreements are private arrangements and there are templates available online that can be used to create them. However, it is worth seeking professional advice – especially if you have not entered such an agreement in the past – to ensure that your interests are protected.

Take your time

Once you have found a suitable partner or partners and everyone is clear on what is expected, the formal contract will set out the terms and conditions of the collaboration, what the parties want to achieve from it, what they will contribute in terms of human and financial resources, the process by which disputes will be resolved, and the mechanism for leaving the partnership.

Perhaps most importantly, you must satisfy yourself that any potential partner is financially sound and expect them to make the same checks on your business. The up-to-date financial data available to users of cloud-based accounting packages such as Big Red Cloud will make it easier to demonstrate your financial health.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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