John Spencer Ellis on Small Business Collaboration

John Spencer Ellis (pictured) is a best-selling author, speaker, filmmaker, and coach. He’s the CEO of the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association, Spencer Institute for Life Coaching, International Triathlon Coaching Association, Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Association, and Get America Fit Foundation. With Entrevo managing director Topher Morrison, Ellis recently published Collaboration Economy: Eliminate Competition by Creating Partnership Opportunities

The Intuit Small Business blog interviewed Ellis on what he and Morrison believe makes a successful small business. Here he explains why partnering with others can protect you from being swallowed by big businesses in today’s highly competitive market and shares tips on how to start collaborating.

ISBB: In this video, you say “big business is truly threatened by small businesses.” Why?

Ellis: Because small businesses have realized if they collaborate they can challenge the status quo of big business and, as a result, they have the nimble flexibility of a small business but the economic horsepower of big business. Big business is like a huge tanker and it takes forever to course correct. They are trying to change course. But they have a huge ship already moving in a direction they know themselves isn’t the best path anymore.

Do small-business owners have anything to lose by not collaborating?

As the collaboration age comes into full swing (over the next two to five years), businesses will no longer be able to compete or even survive if they aren’t collaborating with other businesses. So a small-business owner has everything to lose because technology and trade is moving so swiftly now, no one business can possibly keep up with the changing times. But by having connections beyond your target market, you can distribute the challenge of progress evenly among other companies to help bear that burden.

What prevents small businesses from partnering?

The biggest thing is scarcity. They are still operating from the information age, trying to keep their cards close and not share their best thinking with others — and, in fact, trying to sell their knowledge to people before they have access to it. That model doesn’t work anymore. Their greatest obstacle is the unwillingness to micro niche their business. If I am a personal trainer, for example, and I work with anyone, then all personal trainers are my competition. If I am a personal trainer who only works with women over 40 getting a divorce, then 99 percent of all the other personal trainers out their are my allies and referring agents. I’ll send them everyone who isn’t female, over 40, and getting a divorce, and all I will ask in return is referrals to any of their prospects that fit into my micro niche.

Who should small businesses collaborate with, and how do they find  and approach other businesses about partnering?

They should start by using collaborative services for administrative work [such as appointment scheduling, transcribing, blog posting, or customer support] and then progress to marketing services [such as social media communications, press releases, SEO (search engine optimization), etc.]. These are two great sources to get a lot of your work done for a fraction of what it would cost to hire a full-time employee. After that, move into joint venture projects which are short term, and have a start and end date. Before they begin, have metrics in place that allow both partners to determine if it was a good fit. After it’s over, evaluate the results. If it worked, replicate. If it didn’t, adjust the metrics and do it again, or shake hands and part as friends. The only way to ask for a collaborative project, in my opinion, is to approach the individual with a plan already laid out in what you can do for them. The moment you approach someone and ask them to help you, it becomes a chore for them. It should always be a reward.

What advice can you offer small-business owners who want to start partnering?

Start small and simple. Get your feet wet. Try it out and see how it goes. Also, start with collaborative services that let you recruit extra hands for your business without giving up any equity like eLancefiverr, and Odesk.

About Brandi-Ann Uyemura

Brandi-Ann Uyemura is a freelance writer with a passion for inspiring others. She holds a BA in English and a MA in Counseling Psychology and has worked as an associate editor for Psych Central, a copywriter for various online retailers, and a columnist for The Writer magazine.
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Intuit QuickBooks
Intuit QuickBooks

Hello Frank, The reason for the change is in mid-July, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are making significant changes to their Web browsers, removing the ability for older web-based applications to display popups. In time, the other major web browsers will likely follow suit. As you know, the old QuickBooks has a large number of popups – more than 600. This change will make the old QuickBooks completely unusable as no popups will work. The new QuickBooks uses modern technology and will not be affected by the change in web browsers. This is one of the reasons we are updating customers to the new QuickBooks in advance of this deadline. As part of this acceleration, we are working very hard to address customer feedback we’ve received so far about where the new QuickBooks can be improved. Please let the developers know what you are experiencing here: http://intuit.me/1o64gNa Thanks, Amanda

Frank King
Frank King

Hey Quickbooks..."Easy to use"? "Fast Performance"? Are you effing kidding me? Your response Jill Cannon Peterson sounds like it was written by a PR firm. I am a 13 year user of your software, first the desktop version and now online for many years now. You took a totally functional system away and gave us nothing but frustration. It probably takes me a dozen mouse clicks to get somewhere where it used to take one or two. But, oh, look at at the pretty, pretty colors! Look at the tables and graphs! OOOOHHH, pretty, pretty! Seriously, you should all be hanging your head in shame right now.

Intuit QuickBooks
Intuit QuickBooks

Hello Jill, We have fully revamped QuickBooks to provide an intuitive design based on customer feedback with fast, modern technology under the hood. The new QuickBooks is built to work on both traditional computers and touch screens so you can run your business anytime, anywhere, more efficiently than ever before. It’s designed to grow with you over time. Built on a new platform to enable additional, more powerful functionality, the new design and experience is focused on- Ease of use, incredible insights and fast performance that includes the power of QuickBooks you expect An open platform that provides access to the QuickBooks Ecosystem of small business tools and deep, seamless app integrations that feel more like activating new features than on-boarding new products A mobile-first approach to enable business anytime, anywhere, on any compatible, internet connected device The ability to address customer feedback better and more quickly than ever before We take the feedback very seriously and release changes monthly to address concerns. Please visit us at feedback.qbo.intuit.com to help us shape the future releases of QuickBooks. Thanks, Amanda

Darren Patterson
Darren Patterson

Yes, this update is complete Crap! I have been using this system for 7+ years and now I am "forced" to change to a water-down version. How about this: Since I am a freeking test dummy for the new version, give this crappy software to me for free while I help you improve it by constantly complaining.

Jill Cannon Peterson
Jill Cannon Peterson

I am an accountant and unfortunately have recommended the online version in the past. I have been struggling all day to do simple tasks for a client and there is nothing logical about this new program. Why would you so drastically change the basics of a software program? This was extremely short sighted. I will be shopping for other softwares for my client referrals. At least give us the option to use the prior version.

Julia Sauer
Julia Sauer

We can't even purchase the desktop version of QB through Intuit's website. I cannot believe Intuit thinks moving more users to its flawed and broken online product is good for anyone.

Intuit QuickBooks
Intuit QuickBooks

Hello James, I apologize for the experience you have had and would like to look into this issue for you. Can you please send me your account information and the details to QBCares@intuit.com attention Amanda? Thanks, Amanda

James C. Neff
James C. Neff

I was on the phone no less than 3 hrs today trying to get our ach to work in place of IPN. Not even the customer service could figure it out. It does not seen that customer service is confident with the new platform. This has cost us time and money trying to relearn a system that we had no idea was going to be this huge of change for us. Not a happy camper!

Intuit QuickBooks
Intuit QuickBooks

Hello Victoria, I apologize for the frustration you are having. We did not remove the option for Save and New when creating an invoice. There is a little arrow to the right of the Save and Close button that should allow you to choose Save and New. You can also use keyboard short cuts which are CTL + ALT + S. Hope this helps! Amanda

Victoria LaSota Robinson
Victoria LaSota Robinson

I agree with Jeff the updates suck! It is now taking me twice as long to invoice because instead of saving and going to a new invoice, I have to open a new invoice every time. And don't even get me started about not being able to attach a pdf file. Thanks for making my job harder.

Intuit QuickBooks
Intuit QuickBooks

Hello James, We have fully revamped QuickBooks to provide an intuitive design based on customer feedback with fast, modern technology under the hood. The new QuickBooks is built to work on both traditional computers and touchscreens so you can run your business anytime, anywhere, more efficiently than ever before. It’s designed to grow with you over time.Built on a new platform to enable additional, more powerful functionality, the new design and experience is focused on- Ease of use, incredible insights and fast performance that includes the power of QuickBooks you expect An open platform that provides access to the QuickBooks Ecosystem of small business tools and deep, seamless app integrations that feel more like activating new features than on-boarding new products A mobile-first approach to enable business anytime, anywhere, on any compatible, internet connected device The ability to address customer feedback better and more quickly than ever before Thanks, Amanda

James C. Neff
James C. Neff

The new quick books sucks! This is the worst ever, don't mess with something when you have a good product!! Please go back to the original!!!

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