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Successful entrepreneurs don’t make it on their own. Inevitably they may have had sponsors and partners in their business to provide much needed financial support & key business resources, supportive spouses or family and, by no means least, loyal employees who have shared their dream and vision of success and helped them to develop and deliver their product or service.
Collaboration is an often overlooked, largely misunderstood and very critical component that can directly influence the level and expedience of success within a project or new venture. It is more of a science and art rather than a process and can leave even the most hardened business person feeling scared and vulnerable when it comes to potentially sharing ideas with others, in many cases with people they may know little about but who possess some critical skills and resources that could help springboard their progress to another level.
This is where I see a lot of you reaching for the ‘Non-Disclosure’ or ‘Confidentiality’ agreements that are commonly used and are recognised by most professional business institutes as a means to protect your unique ideas. It is not my intention here to disregard or criticise this practice but to merely give you an insightful view into the impact of such practice and what alternatives you may be able to consider.
When going into a collaborative opportunity it can be a good test of how unique your product or service really is. If you need to immediately reach for a legal protection then are you by default already proclaiming that your product or service is easily copied and lacks specific unique attributes that are either protected by design patent or you are entering into this collaborative relationship too early and need to ensure your patent registrations are in a good commercial status before going further.
I am not saying that Non Disclosure or Confidentiality agreements do not have their place as indeed they do, particularly when you want help in developing early ideas pre-patent or copyright, however even in these scenarios the use of such agreements can immediately undermine the whole basis and potential benefits you are expecting to get from such a collaborative opportunity.
Let me present a different perspective. If you lack trust or cannot be confident in collaborating with another then what sort of foundation does the relationship really have – not a particularly good one from the start? Many celebrity marriages may have a ‘pre-nuptial’ agreement which many may say pre-supposes the marriage may fail and therefore the material gains of either party need to be protected, the same is true for non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements as they immediately acknowledge a potential lack of trust in the ensuing relationship.
Where there is a lack of trust the collaborative partners will not be able to give 100% to the relationship. You may think that this is a minor criticism of accepted business ‘best-practice’ but I can assure you that when you start to analyse and understand how some of the most successful entrepreneurs, those that are at the top of their game, those that you would describe as ‘Serial Entrepreneurs’ operate; you will discover that a large proportion do not depend nor agree with the use of non-disclosure legalities.
For collaboration to be at its most effective it needs to:
1. Be given freely – although you may both/all gain financially, one should not be ‘buying’ collaboration from another.
2. Be based around a Win/Win scenario – ensure you know what you want to get out of the arrangement and then do whatever it takes to meet the needs of your collaborative partner(s).
3. Be flexible – your needs and those of your collaborators can change. Check in on your desired outcomes together regularly.
4. Be aware of costs – in particular financial costs you may impose on yourself or another, emotional costs, time and effort. Ensure you are all investing ‘ecologically’ and are happy with what you are getting from the experience.
5. Allow space for disagreements – be open to anthers point of view. Often they may see things differently to you and have a different relationship with the project. Nurture this within the collaboration and pick collaboration partners who have a different background and experience from yours.
About the Author: John is the co-Director and founder of http://www.advance-entrepreneur.com. A website that provides unique aspects on Entrepreneurship. & suitable for both aspiring and established entrepreneurs.