If you're the public face of your business, there are undoubtedly others who are its muscles, bones and blood.
It takes all of you together to represent the business in front of an audience. The audience will see the external appearance of the company, but it's helpful to draw upon the "infrastructure" underneath as you prepare for public appearances.
Focusing on collaboration has become paramount for me these past few weeks, as its the busiest time of the year for travel and conferences in the wine industry, my home base of entrepreneurship. Attending these conferences, from British Columbia and Portland to Düsseldorf and Verona, means multiple invitations to participate in panels, present masterclasses, and generate content related to the business and innovations of Enolytics.
Each of those opportunities were unique and, though I am qualified to speak on the topics concerned, they each required additional research and preparation. That preparation was exactly when I tapped into the muscles, bones and blood of the people around me, namely co-workers, colleagues and friends.
It not only made the preparation process more enjoyable (and in some cases more efficient), it also underscored the collaborative nature of our business. Enolytics is a big data company for the wine industry, and one definition of a big data company is to aggregate multiple sources of data across multiple platforms. In other words, if we didn't collaborate, we wouldn't have a reason to exist.
When collaboration is at the heart of your business, it's useful for a business to actively seek out opportunities to bring that concept to life. Collaborating to prepare for public speaking appearances is one of those opportunities. Here are three ways this has played out in our business recently, from within the mission statement to expanding outward in public and compelling ways, and how it helped us grow.
1. Communicate a core value of your business.
A core offering of Enolytics is our ecosystem of data partners, which are other businesses and platforms that each have a unique shape of wine-focused data to add to our analysis. We identify and combine the best-suited "pieces" of data, then mine it for business intelligence.
In preparing a slidedeck for presentations, I invite those partners to contribute slides that best illustrate their uniquely shaped data. In some cases that's viticultural data, about analysis of particular vineyards or parcels. Other times that's ecommerce data, about heat maps or concentrations of interest and sales. Or sometimes it's something else all together.
The presentation slidedeck then becomes a visual summary of the collaborative process. This is a valuable takeaway for entrepreneurs in any industry: generate unique expressions of your core values-- collaboration in our case, or perhaps transparency or customer service-- and look to communicate it in creative ways.
Bonus: collaboration with presentations gives your partners valuable airtime as well.
2. Educate within your industry.
Starting a business probably indicates a certain amount of expertise within your industry, enough that you could deliver a "masterclass" of the content. But that knowledge isn't static, and it's important to look for ways to stay current with new developments, and to stay ahead of the thought leadership curve.
The two core knowledge areas drive our business, for example, are wine and data. Though they are worlds apart in terms of skill set and competencies, we actively look for ways to bridge the two. Often it seems like opposite sides of a two-lane road, but that's the creative combo: leading a wine tasting at a conference for chief data officers, say, and teaching wine students how to work with data.
Bottom line? Both instances are an opportunity to "listen in" on conversations about ideas and recent state-of-the-industry reports or initiatives. In a situation like that, you're well-positioned to cross-pollinate or refresh your strategy.
3. Create a mind map of relationships.
It's no secret that sales happen within the safe space of well-cultivated relationships, and that people buy from people they know. But sometimes the intricacy, or the extent, of the web of our interactions gets lost during the contract-writing process that's immediately in front of us.
It can help to map that out visually, not only for visual clarity around the links between contacts but also for the potential opportunities that are not immediately apparent. It amounts to an exercise in proximity with one link, either past, current or future, adjacent to another.
Shifting attention to collaboration, and the opportunities for highlighting it, offers a wealth of unexpected opportunities for new businesses, from valuable "air time" for businesses, to cross-pollination within different industries, to fresh leads as a result of mind-mapping relationships.