Improve your collaborative business relationships

Collaborating successfully with your business partners


Fig 1: A Collaborative Business Relationship

Collaborating with your business partners successfully is not just about talking to them when you want something from them or when there is an issue or problem.  It is a long term commitment and way of working that creates an environment that fosters trust between businesses, organisations and people.   The outcomes are beneficial to all parties both in terms of  being a “successful business” as well as being a great place to work.  Working with various businesses nationally as well as internationally it is clear that this is an aspect of many businesses where there is room for much improvement.   But how do you find out how well you are collaborating in general?  A simple way is to first consider the question by thinking and answering some simple questions to establish a current baseline.  This can be followed up later with your business partners to get their perspective.

To establish a baseline I recommend that you look at the BS 11000 standard on collaborative business relationships.  At the end of this article there is a link for you to answer some simple general questions and key points based on this standard on how you and your business collaborate.  As in Fig1: “A Collaborative Business Relationship” I often see business partners getting together to meet and collaborate to work out how they can improve their working relationships.  With out the aid of a framework such as BS 11000 this can be quite a challenge.

However, a key step is this process, is to determine your relationship maturity with your business partners, based against the 8 stages within the BS 11000 standard.

Collaborative Relationship Maturity

There are 4 basic maturity categories to consider:

  1. Limited:  This is where you or your organisation does not use collaboration as part of daily business activities either internally or externally but may be thinking about it.
  2. Low: In this instance there is an understanding of collaboration and maybe used in a few places or by a few people.
  3. Medium:  This is when you or your organisation understandably collaborative working but it is not fully integrated
  4. High: You and the organisation not only understand collaborative working but it is fully integrated into the organisation and is part of its DNA, supported by policies, procedures including learning and development.

Collaboration Checklist

By looking at the 8 stages and determining your maturity using the 4 categories above, you can complete a matrix to ascertain your current collaborative relationship maturity.  Importantly, you can share this with your key business partners that you want to collaborate with.  The benefit is that you will get their view but it will also make them think about how collaborative they are.
This simple process is a great catalyst to establish an active and constructive collaborative business relationship for your business no matter how large or small it is or how many business relationships you have.  Start by completing the quick collaboration checklist by entering your email address into the Free Collaboration Checklist Box  (  This simple checklist is the first step for you to see if you have the key processes and capabilities in place to develop long and valuable collaborative business relationships.

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