Developing a Partnership

While there’s a certain panache that comes from going it alone in business, there are times when it makes sense to take on a partner. Although choosing the right one isn’t rocket science, there’s a way to go about it to ensure the partnership takes off. Follow along as we identify the steps.

First: Assess the need

Partnerships are based on needs that can’t be met alone. Perhaps your business lacks materials, access, intellectual knowledge or connections. If you can’t figure out a way to meet them with the people or resources you have, it’s time to consider a partner.

Determine what you bring to the table

One-way partnerships seldom last – successful ones should be give and take relationships that benefit both parties. Thoroughly evaluate your business strengths. Ask yourself, “Which of these might appeal to a potential partner?”

Research a lot – and schmooze a little

Be relentless in your efforts to find a partner that clicks. Stay on top of trade blogs and social media sites of potential matches. Network with people in your industry. Do lunch. The more you engage the more successful you’ll be.

Dig deeper

Once you’ve found a candidate that matches, do your due diligence. Find out if the potential partner is philosophically aligned with your business mission. Gauge whether their people and yours will click. This is a two-way street, by the way – one that rewards both parties for being transparent.

Seal the deal

There are a variety of ways to acknowledge a partnership. Whether it’s a handshake deal or a formal collaboration, both parties should have the commitment reviewed by their attorneys or legal teams. The more important the partnership is to each other’s success, the more critical it is for this to happen.

Define the partnership

Once agreed upon, it’s time to define how the partnership will work. Typically the owners, upper management or those who can see the big picture set the parameters. In this phase, roles may be re-evaluated, staffing adjusted and goals redefined. It’s important to keep communication lines between upper management and employees at this time. Changes such as these can be met with fear or skepticism, and clear communication is one way to diffuse negativity.

Retool as needed

With the new vision set, it’s time for both partners to implement. Begin with employee education and training that allows them to be productive members of the newly defined partnership. Engage them in the process to engender buy-in and new thinking.

Gauge your success

Once the partnership is up and running, step back periodically to evaluate what’s working, what needs tweaking and what can wait. While it may not be as exciting as developing a partnership in the first place, it’s crucial to do so to be successful.

Partnerships are an important way to improve how your business operates. Find the right one and it could pay off for everyone involved.


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