This video should send you into the rest of your day with a spring in your step – Mavis Staples, Nick Lowe, and the band Wilco practicing “The Weight” backstage at a Chicago concert hall. I’m sharing it because it made me think about collaboration, which I think is especially critical in a B2B setting. This clip is filmed in a cramped little room, people are hunched over to read lyric sheets, the organ player has his back to everyone else, the guitarists are leaning on their amps, and it looks like a great time. It’s rare to see that kind of intimate back and forth of the collaborative process so clearly.
In the B2B environment, all companies arguably have to be stronger collaborators than in a B2C environment – not only are B2B companies required to work effectively internally, as well as with partners and service providers, but the relationships with clients are also more multidimensional, nuanced, and intimate. There simply aren’t as many purely transactional B2B client relationships as there are in B2C. I recently spoke with a potential client in an industry where the buying cycle can be up to 5 years, the installation can take up to 12 months, and the product is in place for up to 20 years. These folks have to be great collaborators with their clients to thrive, and that’s exactly what they do (they wanted our help in figuring out where the next pool of clients was going to come from – what was the next pond they – patiently – should go fish in).
We work on really complex issues with our clients in both our consulting and outsourced marketing practices. Within our practice, we find that, trying to be efficient by “dividing and conquering,” there is a risk of isolating ourselves and not bringing the full powers of our team to bear on the problem. We have to make sure we build collaboration into our processes, both with our clients when appropriate, and within our own team.
This clip came to my attention via Twitter (someone I follow retweeted it from someone I’ve never heard of). In some ways, Twitter is highly collaborative, across all sorts of geographic and other boundaries, too, as people share information while putting their own – admittedly terse – spin on it. But as the clip itself shows, sometimes there’s no substitute for in-person, face-to-face, eye-contact-based collaboration.
And, if you listen through to the end, you’ll see another value of collaboration – the potential to hear directly from other people that you did good work. Now, Mavis Staples pointing at you and saying “sounds good!” might not follow all the rules for giving praise to the letter, but I’d take it, personally. And in person is the only way to get the kind of energy that you can feel in that little rehearsal room, palpable even via the cold technology that gives us the window into this moment in the first place.
Are there ways to collaborate more warmly, more effectively, more fully within your own team? Are you making sure that, when the task demands it, you are getting the right people in a room together, breathing the same air and looking each other in the eye? Do you have your own version of applause for a great team effort (even if it’s just a rehearsal)? Are you taking a collaborative approach to your client relationships?