A report published by Zipcar, together with StartUp Britain and Ashridge Business School, found that 55 per cent of early-stage companies identify sharing resources as vital to SME success.Rather than a last resort to cut costs, for the majority of those surveyed, collaboration represents a key element of their business plan, with over a fifth choosing to share office space and 31 per cent sharing their workforce with another company. “Sharing with other companies enables start-ups to access resources they might not otherwise afford, as well as providing greater flexibility, reducing overheads and improving the bottom line,” says Zipcar UK’s general manager Mark Walker. Charles Baughan, owner of Devonshire sausage firm Westaways, is a major advocate of SME collaboration, having witnessed first-hand what working with other small firms has done for his business. Already successful in its own right, Baughan has been able to expand his company’s market through a partnership with local firm Nythe Farm Kitchen, which specialises in providing cooked meats to the corporate catering sector. “In the UK lots of companies are large processors with huge turnovers, but they are quite inflexible,” Baughan commented recently to the Meat Trades Journal, explaining, “SMEs like ours can dodge around the big businesses, adding value and being flexible by exchanging skills with others.” According to SME bank Aldermore, such a collaborative approach can allow small businesses to diversify their business, overcome cost barriers and win new customers. “These substantial benefits underline the value of opportunities for the SME community to come together, forging ties to enable them to help each other to grow,” says the bank.
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