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Collaboration – why being self employed need not mean working on your own

I’ve been self employed now for 6 years, firstly as a sole trader and for the last 2 years as a limited company.  Prior to this I had been in management positions for at least 15 years so had always had a team of people around me.  Having to do everything myself and not having a team to share work and ideas was one of the things I feared most about being self employed.  This is probably why my original vision was to build and grow my business, taking on staff as my client base expanded.

How things have changed in the last 6 years!

About two years ago now I made the conscious decision to forget about building my consulting empire because I realised that what I enjoy the most is the actual delivery of services – working for my clients helping them implement change.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I had a team of others to manage.

I can’t do this on my own though, not least because in this business you have to keep on top of your game and the way to do this is by networking with like minded professionals and having the right connections to seek help when needed.  The secret is being able to collaborate effectively with others.  I am now in a position where I can take on any change project and if I can’t deliver it myself I can call on a network of Associate Consultants and partner organisations to work with.    Other partners act as my business development department and help to generate leads and refer business my way.  This means that for the last twelve months I have not been short of work and the pipeline of new business is looking healthy.  Not a bad place to be whilst stuck in the middle of a recession.

I have three key business relationships that work in totally different ways but in all cases there is a collaborative two way relationship:

1. The Lamberhurst Corporation

The Lamberhurst Corporation is a network of independent consultants, most of whom are based in the UK but there we also have several overseas members (including me).  We are all business professionals in our own right and have either held senior business roles in large companies / public sector organisations or have significant experience as a business consultant.  We work collaboratively by forming bid teams to take on larger projects and refer business to each other.  By jointly focusing our marketing and business development efforts the result becomes much bigger than the sum of the individual parts.

I contribute to the network by leading the Business Performance Practice Group and serving on the steering group of the network.  In return I have benefited significantly from the range of benefits the network offers its members.

2.  Jobstream Group plc

Jobstream is a leading provider of software to the offshore Trust and Corporate Services industry.  My relationship with Jobstream is as an Associate Consultant and their representative in the Channel Islands.  My independence and different perspective from traditional technology consultants has helped Jobstream develop their consulting solutions and I have benefited by having access to interesting and demanding projects.

3. Island ARK Ltd

Island ARK is a small provider of market research and surveys in the Channel Islands.  In turnover terms their business is similar to mine.  We offer entirely different, but complementary, services and collaborate to be able to provide an improved offering to our clients.

So, from although in theory I am self-employed I now work with many different teams of people across various business sectors and geographical locations and certainly don’t feel like I work on my own.  You should give it a try!

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