Capitalizing on Collaboration
By David Whitaker
In the fast-paced field of supply chain management, it can be easy to overlook one crucial aspect that improves operations: collaboration. Collaboration within the industry itself—especially between manufacturers, forwarders and shippers—is not a novel idea. However, the true key to boosting productivity across all facets of your operation is often overlooked. All contributors in the supply chain should look beyond the industry, particularly to community stakeholders and business organizations, for opportunities to collaborate. Connecting with partners can benefit your organization in many ways, beyond improving day-to-day procedures. Building relationships and sharing news and resources can bolster your organization’s reputation, in addition to creating new opportunities for business.
Here are three tips on how to capitalize on collaboration, both in and out of the industry, to benefit your operation.
Cultivate strong relationships with local, state and federal governments, as well as local business groups. Building strong relationships with government (at all levels) and business groups can benefit your organization and your customers in many ways. Besides enhancing your reputation for business in the community, fostering strong relationships can provide you with new opportunities. For instance, being connected with government may allow for opportunities to become aware of, apply for and receive grants to build new or expand existing facilities, or upgrade existing equipment or services. Additionally, strong government ties make way for other capital support on projects like road updates and new utilities, ultimately improving operations. Strong relationships also create an open dialogue between partners as to what is needed for success for both your organization and the greater community. An important discussion to have with government and business partners is how your operations can contribute to the success of the region as a whole. Question how your assets can be leveraged to attract new companies to the area. Knowing your strengths and sharing them with partners is crucial to building future opportunities together.
Be willing to share risk, responsibilities and rewards for success. Sharing ideas and concepts with partner organizations, as well as actual – or perceived – competitors can provide your organization with opportunities that might not be possible otherwise. Much like building a strong relationship with local stakeholders, being willing to share can create chances for publicity, attending or exhibiting at tradeshows, involvement in community initiatives and more. Sharing important news and updates with connections can bring new business to your organization or even create opportunities for thought leadership like speaking engagements featuring your business or services. For instance, if you would like to be a presenter at a conference or trade show, rather than submitting the request and application to present as a single entity, take the risk of seeking out similar subject matter experts on your chosen topic and submit your application as a panel. Sharing that time and presenting your audience with a lively discussion will foster more engagement leading to follow-up conversations, media coverage and business opportunities. Your fellow presenters will likely share the same experience and may even return the favor in the future.
Share your own time, expertise and resources. You can’t expect cooperation from partners and stakeholders, if you do not put in the time and effort. Partnerships are a two-way street. Do your part by sharing your time, resources and talents. Whenever possible, share information and make introductions that could be beneficial to other organizations. When it comes to the logistics industry, we often face similar challenges. Whether the struggle is with personnel or safety, inventory control or timely reporting, we all have our own methods to power through. So when you hear a colleague is struggling, offer your own simple solutions that my help their situation (without giving away your secret tricks of the trade). It will bolster your professional reputation and enhance your company’s image as a good partner.
Being open to collaboration with partners outside of the wholesale and distribution industry can improve your overall operations. Be conscious not only of what your partners can offer you, but what benefits you bring to the table as well. Keep an open line of communication, build strong relationships and continue to identify new and unique ways to work together.
David Whitaker is vice president, business development and communications for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, which operates Port Columbus International, Rickenbacker International and Bolton Field Airports in Columbus, Ohio.