by Cathy Brower
Our cover story this month, we stand united, is about more than meets the eye. On the surface it is an inspiring tale of how small, independent booksellers have banded together and used the Internet to compete against some of the larger book chains. Beneath the surface, however, is a larger message. Any small business can realize great benefits by joining with others that are in a similar situation. There is, as they say, strength in numbers.
After just a little bit of research we came across many examples of how people like you were benefiting from strategic alliances. Homestore.com, for example, works with the National Association of Realtors and local realtor groups everywhere, to bring their listings to the Web. The site currently boasts more than 7.2 million visitors a month — many more hits than any of these small firms could get on their own.
Web sites like EqualFooting.com allow small businesses to leverage their buying power. By banding together they are getting bulk discounts on everything from employee health care to office supplies.
Planet Salvage has built an Internet marketplace where small auto salvage dealers and body shops can go on line to buy and sell parts from across the country.
At Demandline, businesses can get quotes for free on a wide variety of services from a network of suppliers. Type in a list of what you need and within a week, Demandline will auction the request to numerous suppliers and you will receive some competitive bids. We found a great example of a small business owner who is saving hundreds of dollars a month on long distance charges by using Demandline.
These are just a few examples and I know there are tons more. If you are currently involved in an alliance of some sort and are reaping the rewards, let me know at [email protected] If not, get moving. Do some research on the Web to see if there are any similar organizations catering to your particular field. There are organizations for lawyers, accountants, realtors, and almost every other vertical industry. These groups are usually a good place to start. It’s never to late to take advantage of some small business unity.