Partnerships are a powerful tool to grow your business. The right partnership will give your business a shot in the arm. You’ll get fresh ideas, a new audience and maybe, depending on the type of partnership, a new product.
However, there are some right ways and wrong ways to find a partner for your small business goals. These are the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when looking for partners. Learn how to avoid them and take advantage of this powerful opportunity to partner with others.
1. Thinking about your own needs first.
Too many entrepreneurs think about what they need rather than what they can offer their partner. Your potential partners want value from you – not to be “sold”. Before you reach out to a potential partner, get crystal clear about what’s in it for THEM.
Are you an established expert? Do you have a responsive list? Can you introduce them to a new audience segment? Do you have expertise in an area they don’t? What need do they have that you can fill?
Your goal is to create an opportunity for both partners to get value from the relationship. Don’t even think about contacting a potential partner until you can easily and succinctly convey your value.
2. Viewing your colleagues as competitors.
When you see other businesses as competition out to get your piece of the pie, you can’t build the relationships you need. Instead, think of other business owners as partners and collaborators in serving your audience.
Focus on the ways you are different than the other businesses in your niche. When you look for partners, look for people who serve your audience in a different way. These businesses aren’t direct competition. How does your work complement their work and vice versa?
Your joining forces to provide more value to your audience creates more opportunity for both of your businesses and a higher quality of service to those you work with. It’s a win-win for everyone.
3. Making a pitch before getting on the prospect’s radar.
Pitching someone cold rarely works. Make a connection with them socially. People are much more responsive to someone they know. Start by connecting through social media or getting an introduction from a mutual friend. Then spend some time getting to know them and learning about what they need. Be gracious about offering your support for seemingly small things without expecting anything in return. Once you get on a potential partner’s radar, he or she is far more receptive to your partnership offer.
4. Expecting your partner to do the heavy lifting.
Plan ahead to pull your own weight. This is a partnership; you’re not hiring an employee. This person has his own needs and his own goals for the project. Make sure you agree on a division of labor. Successful partnerships have written agreements stating roles, responsibilities and division of money made by the project. Aim to over deliver, just like you do with your clients.
5. Disappearing after the first collaboration.
Don’t drop the ball. Too many people start a conversation, have great ideas and a brilliant brainstorming session but don’t follow-through. If you don’t act on your ideas and move the partnership forward, it’s just a waste of time. Ideas are great, but action is what gets you to your goals. If you make a commitment, get it done, on time, as you agreed. You’ll build greater trust this way and open the door for additional opportunities down the line.
Choosing your partnership strategically is an extremely powerful way to build your business very quickly. But don’t shoot yourself in the foot before you get started. Practice developing the skills you need by reaching out to people who already have a relationship with you rather than pitching cold.
Stay open to opportunities. Don’t rule out your “competitors”. Honor your commitments. In doing so you’ll create a business that is more profitable, more successful and more fulfilling than you could have ever imagined.
Your “Take Action” Plan for This Week:
1. Make a list of companies or individuals you think of as competitors. List all the ways you could work with those businesses that would be profitable to both of you.
2. Take one step to get on each of your competitors’ radar this week. (i.e. reach out to them on social media or ask a mutual friend for an introduction.)
3. Reach out to a contact you already know well to schedule a lunch or coffee date to catch up on what each of you are up to and explore opportunities for how you can partner together.