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Collaborate for Greater Success

September 17, 2011 Regional Business Development

Collaborate For Greater Success « Strengthening Brand America

Remember, the choice to collaborate is a strategic decision to leverage an organizational structure to achieve a specific objective. I want to emphasize the word choice. If you can’t explain why a collaborative approach makes sense, it probably doesn’t.

 The above article reminded me of a regional initiative I participated in back in the mid 80’s in Victoria, Australia. A regional development organization had retained a consultant to assist a group of wineries who, on a regional basis were cooperating well, but competing aggressively for export markets. In their first meeting on the subject, the consultant welcomed the audience of suspicious business owners and managers and proceeded to tell them, business by business how well they were doing (or not doing in some cases) in their primary export market of Malaysia. He went into detail about what price each company was getting, how the French wine industry was getting nearly twice the price per bottle despite having a higher freight burden, and how he thought they were being childish, naive and petty in their export initiatives.


The consultant had really done his research and was clearly making everyone very uncomfortable in the room, the silence was deafening. As I recall some participants actually left the meeting.

Then in what turned out to be a great piece of theater, he asked everyone in the room for a copy of their export price list. He chastised those who didn’t have one with them, by saying they obviously weren’t seriously interested in selling…now I was getting really uncomfortable, was this guy just trying to alienate everyone in the room? He went around collecting price lists and marketing literature, most of which I’m sure he had seen before, and went back to the front of the room and ripped them to shreds and threw them up in the air!


In short, he went on to criticize them for acting as individuals in their export markets while simultaneously working well as a regional cooperative. The outcome was a breaking down of the suspicion and mis-trust in the room and ultimately lead to the formation of a regional export initiative which saw the members marketing and selling their products as a portfolio of  unique quality wines from the region. As a result, they were able to achieve approximately twice the price per bottle while also collectively increasing their volume. The Australian wine industry has continued to enjoy success in Asia and elsewhere in the world as other groups followed a similar model.


What’s the message here? It seems obvious to most that forming cooperatives on a regional basis to help grow a region on the basis of coopetion is a good thing, but once the market is taken outside the immediate local area, all gloves are off. Cooperation, collaboration and all of the rules that apply to local and regional business development can also apply to the larger global market. The formation and nurturing of strategic relationships leads to something that is greater than the sum of the parts.


Economic Development Organization, whether public  or private sector should facilitate the building of closer relationships and better communications for mutual benefit. Collectively they should identify not only regional opportunities, but also global markets. Whether or not you choose to rip up their price lists is up to you however!