Do Atlantic Canadian Business Leaders Really Believe in Collaborating? Here’s What the Data Says
Michael DeVenney
November 29, 2021

The boundaries have blurred, the lines are broken, providing openings for collaboration across companies and organizations to make a difference, and to be different.  

But from surveying Atlantic Canadian companies, I think leaders find different to be difficult. And businesses are missing out on significant opportunities. I feel we are spending too much time with our heads down being busy, rather than pausing to gain new perspectives to shift things up.

Outperforming in times of uncertainty is tough. It takes keen eyes and bold, yet thoughtful, moves. Generally, only about 12 percent of companies will outperform during times of crisis. While others stall, lag, or fall, the resilient companies focus attention on revenue generation, innovation, and productivity.

Clarity is the first step. Despite the complexity of our world today, being able to lead businesses to stay ahead of the curve takes deliberate attention on what is most important. With clarity, people have confidence in being ready for what is next, adapting to change and adversity to stay on track.

Surveying business leaders in Atlantic Canada, we found the confidence level to be moderate at best.

In our first round of assessing the perspectives of leaders on the readiness of their companies, confidence in the ability to generate revenue ranked the lowest. The confidence level was 67 percent overall, with the greatest top-line strength being the realignment of current offerings to match market preferences. By repackaging or bundling products and services already in the market, leaders can adapt to meet customer needs and maintain revenues.

Positive, yet still not enough to push the boundaries. A greater degree of innovation is needed, not simply looking for incremental change to get us through this time.

The missed opportunity for entrepreneurs in revenue generation was partnering to develop new business opportunities. And partnering pays off - we found that the companies that ranked highest in their ability to create alliances were 24 percent more likely to be confident about generating revenue. Collaborating with other businesses seems to bring a sense of assurance for shared success.

Leaders ranked their readiness to partner or invest with other organizations at 59 percent.

Partnering can be joint ventures or alliances with other companies to develop markets together, investing in other companies, or engaging in mergers and acquisitions. At this time, 37 percent of business leaders said they invested in partnering effectively.

But even with those who felt confident partnered to advance their current offering rather than try new twists to their business models. And business model innovation has the highest return to the company. Now is a time to look at what could be possible and find companies that can bring something new to the business. Shift it up.

Donna Alteen, President, Time + Space Media
Donna Alteen, President, Time + Space Media

Time and Space Media, an innovative marketing services company, has earned respect for developing Go to Market strategies for organizations that are founded in research and actionable insights.  The company’s President, Donna Alteen believes that collaboration is the reason that Time + Space has been successful for the past 32 years.  "Our vision is to create success - in our communities, with our clients, in our company and in our individual lives. Partnership has allowed us to build value through innovation and to help our clients understand and react to long term consumer trends that impact their brands.  Whether it is through strategic alliances, investments in tech start-ups that will disrupt and provide more effective and efficient solutions, the exploration of new business models, or equity investments that allow us to extend our value to our clients, we try to take a collaborative mindset.  Working with like-minded organizations allows Time and Space to build capability and capacity and to see things through a different lens. Together is better, because together we can go farther and create more.”

Partnering is about finding new ways – that is the key.

For Atlantic Canadian leaders enjoying the benefits of partnering, the area of revenue generation they see as most promising is, ironically, renewing current offerings to match market trends. Leaders invest in their strengths. While engaging with other companies could provide a platform for adding new capabilities, developing innovation, or building new markets, companies partnered to build on what they see as already working for them. More incremental than bold, it remains a rewarding path for businesses to grow.

And companies confident in their partnering abilities also showed less of an increase in their interest in innovation. We seem to want to stick to what we know. Partnering to innovate is an opportunity worthy of consideration and should be on the agenda of every entrepreneur looking to outperform at this time. Investing and collaborating to explore and experiment offers the potential of sharing the risk while enlarging the return. Innovation did not score high on the radar of confident leaders and is something to explore in further surveys.

Innovation is a vital aspect of high performing companies, a way to renew and stay relevant. Yet, we do not see many leaders confident overall with creativity and inventiveness in their businesses and the level of innovation we do see appears to be incremental rather than breaking new ground. Now is a time where the doors are open for broader moves and outperforming companies look for opportunities for deeper change.

We tend to feel more comfortable with what has worked for us in the past. And responding to customer preferences and market shifts with current offerings is a reasonable strategic choice. At the same time, overlooking opportunities is a risk. Partnering, from collaborating to investing, has shown to be a consistent tool that keeps companies ahead of the curve in challenging times as well as in positive markets. For the leaders we surveyed, their confidence in the ability of their businesses to generate revenue over the coming year was 24 percent higher than those who did not emphasize partnering.

For Atlantic Canadian companies, revenue generation is perceived as a challenge and the area most needing attention. While retooling current products and services to fit shifting customer needs is a strength, the opportunity to partner to strengthen the core offerings and explore bolder moves is a strategy to assess. For leaders who do, they have a 17 percent higher overall confidence level in the readiness of their companies to be more productive and profitable. And confidence is contagious.

In the coming months, we will explore proven pathways for Atlantic Canadian leaders to position their companies to succeed, despite the uncertainty and complexity of our times.

Stay tuned – and participate, to build a stronger and more collaborative business community.

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