The first time someone mentions the idea of a strategic partner, I would bet you kind of roll it around in your head, but don’t give it much thought – it feels like giving up part of your business, and that is the LAST thing you want to do. A quick segue – don’t let your ego cause your business to fail. By thinking you can do it all yourself, and that everything that has to be done can only be done by yourself will minimize both your capabilities – the abilities to get work done, and your capacity – the amount of work you can complete in a given time period.
Let me define a strategic partner. A strategic partner is a person or organization with similar values and beliefs to your own business, that has a specific complementary expertise that will manage a specific aspect or your business using their expertise for a fee. The short version is this person or organization will be your organization’s spouse. As long as you share a vision, are honest and respectful to each other and meet each other’s expectations (financial or service-related), you may have a long-term relationship.
Some things a partner won’t do would be to take you for granted, do something that would compromise your organization, not communicate with you and look out for its own self interest to the detriment of your organization. What makes it a partnership is that the honor and respect is reciprocal.
The quick and dirty – looking for a partner for your organization:
- Know your business – start with a business assessment. Make sure you have an understanding of how the role you seek to fill impacts your business – cost, personal service, intimacy with your business, etc.
- Know the role you wish to fill – qualifications, requirements, industry understanding, education, experience, etc.
- Know your business beliefs – what does your organization stand for?
- Know how much you can afford to invest or spend. While measuring the cost/benefit is often rather easy to do – strategic partners often save you much more money than you will spend, measure the actual cost in terms of actual dollars you can spend.
- When looking for an organization, look for one that you can have a relationship, rather than one that will simply add you in its long list of clients. Remember, while you might like the sales person, most people change jobs every four years or so. The person you started with will probably only be with the organization for so long.
- Keep your organization’s values in mind, and make sure that your partner’s values are similar.
- Be clear on exactly what role you want filled. Neither party will benefit if both parties don’t have full understanding of expectations.
- Have a statement of understanding or contract so that both parties will have clear understanding of what is expected. This is not in lieu of a handshake, if that is your standard operating procedures. The statement of understanding simply spells out what you expect of each other and serves as a point of reference as your organizations grow.
Try to find an organization that is your “equal.” Remember, you want to be able to serve each other and understand each other’s needs and wants.
- Understand that barter (trade) and cash are viable assets. Recommending each other’s products and services serve to strengthen relationships and strengthen the relationship. Communication should be often and ongoing. Remember, you are working in each others’ best interest.
Choosing a strategic partner should be taken no less likely then choosing an internal partner for your organization, or a spouse. If you chose wisely, both of your organizations can grow together. As Colin Powell once said, “None of us is as strong as all of us.”
Be extraordinary. Develop extraordinary partnerships.
Aepiphanni Business Consulting: The Business Strategy People is a Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of small to medium sized business leaders and executives. We specialize in helping leaders create extraordinary businesses. We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including Creative and Design Services, Software & IT Services, Professional Services and Healthcare Services. As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions. If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].