Why avoid collaboration when it can be a real advantage to your consulting practice? Maybe you feel that your independence is threatened when you work with others. Having attained a level of independence based on your own self-directed nature, you may not want to share that autonomy or reveal your marketing techniques or evaluation secrets. Maybe you worry about management responsibilities, possibly why you left your former job in the first place. However, these reasons pale beside the benefits of collaboration. Let’s take a look at some of them and then consider two work-around strategies to ease potential concerns.
- Allows you to accept more complex projects than are possible working alone. A broader skill set makes for a more comprehensive and competitive bid.
- Enhances your work quality because collaborators can offer different perspectives on design, analysis, and general work processes. By pooling talent, new ideas are generated.
- Improves your project efficiency and timeliness because individuals can handle multiple tasks at the same time.
- Off-sets the isolation you may feel working solo. Collaborators can provide camaraderie when facing the grind of repetitive tasks, such as conducting extensive interviews or focus groups, or churning through endless reams of data. Companionship lightens the load.
- Increases your commitment to a production schedule and deadlines. Knowing others are working towards the same goals adds incentive for you to keep on going.
- Increases your cost efficiencies as tasks are assigned according to skill level. You don’t waste time doing tasks below your pay grade when someone else can handle then competently.
- Decreases overall competition by co-opting your potential competitors out of the bidding process. Everyone wins
Sub-contracts. One way to deal with the management required to work in a team is to develop a sub-contract for each collaborator. This clearly outline their tasks, deadlines, and payments. I always include a clause that states I will not pay them until the client pays me, thus limiting my own cashflow issues.
Regular communications. Routine conference calls, scheduled, say every second week, allow you to keep on top of task completion, troubleshooting as needed. Using creative facilitation tactics, you can make the calls fun, building both rapport and interpersonal energy. Everyone will look forward to these meetings and will prepare accordingly.
When you work with collaborators you are building a cadre of colleagues for future work. Sometimes your projects, other times theirs, there will be more work to go around, and with collaboration, it just gets easier, more productive, and more fun.
Gail Vallance Barrington
Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Fox, M.J. and Faver, C.A. (1984) “Independence and Cooperation in Research: The Motivations and Costs of Collaboration.” The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 55, No. 3, pp. 347-359. Ohio State University Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1981888
Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter. September 2019.