This past week I saw an inspiring news story about the success of a downtown business district in a small community in the St. Louis, Mo. area.  Only two retail spaces were vacant in this small town.  That’s in sharp contrast to many small town main streets with boarded up buildings and a ghost town appearance.

The secret to this community’s success is collaboration.  There is a strong small business network and the businesses all work together to help each other succeed.  Instead of competing against each other, they cross-promote each other.  They host special events in each other’s locations.  Most importantly, they support each other in every way.

Starting and growing a small business is difficult. In addition to the day-to-day challenges of building a business, the sluggish economy is taking its toll.  Far too many small firms are struggling to keep the doors open.  Sadly, most of the businesses I talk with admit that they’re having a tough time.

Aristotle wrote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  In other words, we’re stronger together than we are as independent business owners.  When we work together toward the common good of building our business communities, the results exceed anything we could achieve on our own.

Operating a small business can be an isolating, lonely experience.  You juggle myriad responsibilities from marketing, accounting, human resources, even janitorial.  Imagine how much more successful you could be if you had a team of other business owners with which to collaborate.

Take a look at your local business community. How supportive is it? Consider taking the lead in building a collaborative business network in your area.  Look for ways to promote each other.  Host a special event to attract new customers and clients to your area.  Become a marketing cheerleader for each other.

In addition to marketing and promotional activities, establish a resource-sharing network, and be willing to lend a hand to a fellow business owner who needs assistance.  Decades ago, communities came together to help a local farmer build his barn. In the same way, small businesses should collaborate to help each other build their businesses.

To find a local small business network in your area, check out the local chamber directory on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website.

Collaboration, not competition, is key to small business success. How so you see small businesses in your area working together to build mutual success?


Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.