Cecile Reinaud is founder of maternitywear etailer Séraphine.
We live in a rapidly changing world where information is king, shoppers are savvier than ever and openness is vital to ensuring growth. As a result, businesses must share knowledge, even with competitors.
Running a business can be lonely, particularly in ecommerce, which is driven by changing consumer sentiment, fast-moving technology and growing security concerns. The more information you have, the more your service and your business can improve.
Through collaborative, peer-to-peer learning, I have benefitted from the shared experiences of many business owners, both within the digital retail industry and elsewhere.
In the early days of my business, I established a valuable relationship with Simon Hill-Norton, co-founder of women’s sportswear label Sweaty Betty. He was once my mentor, but now we have a more collaborative relationship based on sharing expertise, knowledge and insights. We exchange ideas, whether that is on market changes and strategic decisions or specific challenges on service providers, technology or HR.
I am also a member of the Supper Club, a membership organisation made up of business owners and chief executives. When I was faced with major HR decisions for my business, considering whether part-time or outsourced people would be more appropriate, I was able to call on another Supper Club member, Derek Bishop, who runs an advisory firm called Culture Consultancy, for advice.
Everyone I have met in the group so far is interested in sharing the experiences and challenges they are facing with their businesses. It has allowed me to reconsider my tactics, putting my own challenges into a wider context.
This sharing did not just happen, however. I had to make a concerted effort to take time away from the day-to-day running of my business. Many small business owners are doing the same: sharing insights and experience through formal peer-learning arrangements or by forging strong relationships with other business owners. In today’s world you won’t keep up as a lone ranger, so start sharing.