The partnership machine

September 16, 2013

No business is too small – or too big – to benefit from carefully-established partnerships.  Use these ideas to build money-making partnerships of your own.

If you’ve been a small business owner for longer than a few months you’ve probably realized that you can’t do everything yourself.  Employees are one way to get help, but you may not be ready to make the leap from entrepreneur to employer.  That’s where bartering and partnerships come in. The Hiscox Small Business blog has highlighted several entrepreneurs that achieved business success through partnerships, such as Philip Walker, CEO of Network Solutions Provider.

Partnerships are relationships between businesses designed to help everyone achieve more success.  Generally they are low-cost, as business owners don’t want to spend any more than necessary.  Here are a few to explore:

  • A marketing partner could be a complimentary business that shares your target market where you refer clients to each other.  Or you could split an ad buy so you both get more bang for the buck.
  • A financial partner is also a smart move.  Tracking your business finances can be its own full-time job, so it’s smart to team up with an accountant, banker, or advisor who can monitor cash flow and devise means for increasing business wealth.
  • Then there are supplier partners.  Even if your supplies are one printer and envelopes, it’s still stuff you need.  An easy move is to join office supply store buying programs; you’ll get coupons and advanced sale notices.  Getting more creative, you could arrange to buy packs of $10 gift cards from the local coffee shop in exchange for a few free coffees.  Use the gift cards as client thank-yous.
  • Technology partners can be helpful too, especially if PCs and networking aren’t your strong suits.  You can trade with a web designer, and potentially get a smokin’ website in exchange for a few hours of consulting in your area of expertise.  Or team up with a tech support guru for help connecting e-mail exchanges in return for one of your yummy pies each week for 10 weeks.

How does a partnership happen?  Identify potential partners, then reach out.  Have coffee and find out if the chemistry is there.  You’ll need several meetings to determine whether you can bring value to each other. Take your time here, as partnerships dissolve when one party overpromises or there isn’t a detailed contract that spells out the benefits to each party.  Be sure to include motivational incentives, and teach each other about your respective offerings to maximize sales opportunities. When the machine is in motion set up a regular check-in schedule of weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings to ensure everyone is participating and to update each other on any internal changes.  Like any new undertaking, there will be an adjustment period and growing pains.  But with a planned approach and formalized monitoring process in place the relationship should be seamless within 12 to 18 months.