How to Create Endless Value Through Collaboration

Dan Sullivan
Hero image

The following is an excerpt from the book Collaboration Ground Rules by Dan Sullivan.

For a long time, you’ve wondered if there was a way of doing business that could bypass competition. You realize that the new business universe you’re going to be developing and expanding for the rest of your life starts by looking at everything through the “D.O.S.” eyes of your best clients and customers—their Dangers (things they’re afraid of losing), Opportunities (the possibility of gaining something), and Strengths (their unique skills and experience).

When you help your clients identify their D.O.S. issues, you can create immeasurable value for them.

For entrepreneurs, being a hero to your target audience in this way is an emotional experience. And it isn’t something you want to do only sometimes—it’s a lifetime, relationship-based connection you have in the marketplace. You identify who it is that you want to be a hero to and then determine what issues those people face. And when a person you want to be a hero to is having difficulty achieving what they want and need, you go out of your way to create new solutions for them.

Stage Two.

You are now beginning Stage Two of your business life in two extraordinary ways: One, seeing everything from the point of view of your customers’ D.O.S. And, two, recognizing the other value creators who are also transforming your customers’ D.O.S. issues into new forms of value—and seeing them not as competitors but as potential collaborators.

Being a hero.

The starting point for all collaboration isn’t what you do and what your collaborator does. It’s whom you’re doing it for.

Your motivation is always to be uniquely valuable to a specific kind of customer and client in a particular marketplace—your “hero target.” The purpose behind everything you create and achieve is to be a hero to these individuals in crucial areas of their lives. You know they have others helping them achieve different goals, but what you provide to them cannot be matched by anyone else.

You don’t go in with the attitude of wanting to sell a product or service. Your product or service only has meaning or value if it allows the customer or client to achieve what they want to achieve.

You look at the world not through your own eyes, but through your clients’ eyes. And what you get for this is the opportunity to be uniquely valuable.

D.O.S. value creators.

You increasingly identify other marketplace innovators who are also motivated to be heroes to your best customers but in completely different ways. They provide new value to your hero target, transforming different areas of their D.O.S. from the areas you transform, using their own Unique Ability— what they love to do and do best.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to be a hero to clients with regard to legal matters. You would have no problem collaborating with someone who’s a hero to the same client but in areas of technology.

People without a collaboration mindset wouldn’t be willing to work together because they’d feel they were in competition with anyone providing help to the same clients or customers. But you’re not just trying to sell a product or service; you and your collaborators are working toward the same goal—being a hero to a particular target audience.

Increasingly valuable.

You realize that the more you understand what the other D.O.S. transformers in your customers’ lives are providing, the more you’re able to increase your own results and impact as a hero in a unique way. Once you start to understand other innovators’ hero impact, you become more valuable.

You’re interested in everything the client thinks about because there’s a possibility that you can extend your value if you know everything they’re interested in. And you have to be interested in the other value creators because you don’t want to do what they’re doing. You have to know where the boundaries are between your territory and theirs.

The more you understand the complete 360 degrees of a person’s dangers, opportunities, and strengths going forward—where they see themselves a year down the road, five years, 10 years—the more you can see where someone else’s Unique Ability is needed, and also that you can collaborate with this other Unique Ability.

Expanding creativity.

As you expand your understanding and appreciate all the different ways that many entrepreneurs can create new kinds of value for a single customer, you also experience a jump in your own D.O.S. creativity. You see new ways of transforming your unique value and contribution.

Every person creating value for the same client is unique. Each comes up with new ideas in different ways. This means that in collaborating with other value creators, you’ll see great approaches that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself, and the other person has already put the time in to test them.

You see that nobody else’s creativity is a threat to yours. Your creativity and theirs can only be added together, not subtracted from each other.

More than “product.”

Earlier in your business life, most of your daily focus and worry were on your product and service and the price you could charge. It was all about you and what your competitors were doing. Now, you’re suddenly seeing your future entirely in terms of being a hero, and that far transcends selling any product or service.

Products are simply the current packaging for the value you create, but what you’re able to offer isn’t limited to that. Since your goal is being a hero, not selling a product, you’ll be able to adapt, be resourceful, and have longevity. You’ll change how you deliver what you offer as your customers’ needs, wants, and circumstances change.

And when you collaborate with another innovator who has the same goals, the value you can create together is unlimited.

For my latest entrepreneurial lessons, insights, and inspiration, get your full copy of Collaboration Ground Rules and browse my other quarterly books here.