The 9 Circles of Hell in Small Business Collaborations: See You Soon?

Over the past two days I've had some pretty meaningful conversations about business.
We've discussed collaborations for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
We've expressed frustrations on the prevalent lack of follow through surrounding us.
We've discussed concerns about how to launch a collaborative idea successfully.
The copywriter in me finished those conversations and immediately went to work researching. After all, that's how copywriters spend the majority of time. The writing is the quick and easy part.
According to statistical data, 70-80% of business partnerships (both internal and external) fail. This statistic hasn't changed in nearly 15 years.
As small business owners, we realize the importance of collaborations for growth. But what is stopping us from enjoying success when joining forces?
I looked back on my own collaborations, both successful and less than successful. I looked at collaborations of others and jotted down my notes. A few patterns emerged why many collaborations will fail. I call these the 9 Circles of Small Business Collaboration Hell.
Many go into a partnership talking about equal responsibilities and having equal say. But when decision time comes, not everyone is ready to concede to the ideas of others.
It's not always about accepting someone else's ideas or decisions. In some cases, it's more about not wanting to SHARE them. There is a protectiveness when it comes to giving out trade secrets and business tips. Whether from fear or selfishness, there are those who would rather see failure than share.
We touched on this one above, but it can sneak into a collaborative effort in so many ways. Someone may have failed before and fear it happening again. There's the fear of not being the right person for the job. Not having the knowledge or skills necessary to get the goal accomplished. Fear of not having enough time, or of doing all the work. You can remove most fears with ease by having a clear written plan before starting the project.
This is where so many of us get into trouble with business. Yes, even copywriters and content creators. When collaborating on a project, everything from the very beginning should be presented. The ideas, goals, and responsibilities should be clear and concise. You need to be honest about what you can do, will do, and are doing. You also need to establish exactly what you want accomplished from the partnership.
Values and Goals
Here is why communication is so important. If you're going to work together on a project, you need to be on the same page. Do you value helping others while your partner values the number of sales you can make in a month? Do you want long-term business growth but your partner wants to build the business for a quick sale? Many times entrepreneurs enter into collaborations because they each offer great skills. But many of the failed relationships happen because of differing desires and values. If your value system and end-goals aren't the same, your collaboration is doomed from the start.
Personality Conflicts
Sometimes it doesn't matter how talented the players are and if you have the same values and goals. There are certain people who cannot get along. Even if they've been long time friends! Personal doesn't always translate to good business relationships. It can be anything from when the person wants to do the work to the way they eat during a Zoom meeting. In business, characteristics we would overlook in our personal lives can become glaring. Make certain you know who you are partnering up with before you start on a project. Failure to do so can lead to serious disappointments.
Prioritization/Time Management
Another cause for failed partnerships is problems with time management and prioritization. When we enter into these collaborations the idea is a great one we are completely behind. But often times it isn't given the main focus because of other commitments. We put our own individual business agenda or our personal agenda ahead of things. The collaboration isn't as important. Lack of time management can make it feel like the partnership is a burden. You don't feel like you have the time to fulfill commitments.
Trust Issues
There are instances when one or more partners don't feel like they can trust the others. Whether from a failed partnership in the past, or not fully knowing the other parties. There is a tendency to hold back and not give your all when you feel like manipulation or deceit could play a factor. Worry about the ethics and the way your partners are handling business interactions will destroy the collaboration in no time.
In a study about work loads in collaborations, 30% of participants didn't put in any effort. They relied on the other members in the partnership to do all the work. Despite offering nothing to contribute to any sort of success, they reaped rewards.  Collaborations are a team effort.  If all members aren't following through or being held accountable, the odds of success are slim.
As a result of members of the collaboration not putting forth any effort, those that commit to the success of the project become burned out. These few do all the work and pick up the slack for those who don't meet their promises. Over time, they go over and beyond the expected hours and effort. At some point, it becomes too much and they quit the project. They become oversaturated with tasks and tired of filling in the gaps for those who are not participating.
So before you agree to work on a collaborative partnership with someone you need to check your list. Are you guilty of dwelling in one or more of the 9 circles of small business collaboration hell? Or are there members who are guilty?
While working together can lead to HUGE successes, you need to be honest about what you are walking into. A few simple steps of preparation can be the difference between success and failure.