One of the hardest things about starting a new business is getting the word out there that you exist. You can vastly improve your brand visibility and legitimacy by building strategic partnerships. Strategic partnerships can be difficult to build, and not every partnership is built equally. But if you follow these 5 tips, you can develop great relationships with other businesses that can help you both thrive.
- Find Partners in the Right Industry
It’s tough to build partnerships with companies that are in the same business as you because you’re competing against one another. If you run a bakery, you’d probably prefer that customers forget any other bakery exists—so it doesn’t make sense to advertise for another bakery, even if they’re doing so for you. It’s best to find partners that are in different industries but which serve the same types of customers.
For example, let’s say you run a company that does copywriting for clients. If you don’t have any in-house graphic designers, you might form a strategic partnership with a graphic design company; maybe you’ll pay them to do graphics for the content you write. You’ll earn a discounted rate, and they’ll always have a steady stream of business from you.
You can still form partnerships with companies in the same industry, but oftentimes these will come in the form of hiring agreements. You and another business might agree to not steal employees directly from each other’s company (this can escalate and get very nasty). But these aren’t typically marketplace agreements.
If you’re having difficulty finding a good strategic partner, consider using a business networking site.
- Host Mixers
Once you’ve formed a strategic partnership, you’ll need to do everything you can to strengthen it. A great way to strengthen the bond between your two companies is to hold a mixer so your employees can have fun and network with each other. The social media age has made professional networking events more popular than ever.
If you plan on hosting professional events in your office, then you’ll definitely need to shop for an accommodating office space in the early stages of your startup. Look for rentals or off market properties that have lots of parking for guests, and be sure to invest in office furniture that’s comfortable for guests.
Don’t worry if your office space isn’t up-to-snuff. You can always host a mixer at a party venue—and you’re bound to find some environments that are way more fun than an office.
- Create Parameters
The most awkward part about forming a strategic partnership is setting parameters (AKA rules) for both of your companies to follow. It’s best to write out all of these stipulations in a business contract so you’ll each have some form of legal protection. Ideally, you’ll have full faith in your strategic partner, but the pursuit of money may cause your partner to renege on an agreement or form other partnerships under the table. Best to protect your company and ensure you have an exit clause in case you discover your partner has been deceiving you.
But the main benefit of forming a business contract is to establish the specifics on how both of your companies are going to go about helping one another. A strategic partnership is only well-wishes until stipulations have been laid out in writing.
- Foster Frequent Communication
One of the most common business mistakes is that companies fall out of regular contact with their strategic partner after only a few months. It’s understandable—you have a lot of things to do as a business owner, and it’s easy to let communication slip when you’ve got a million different things on your plate.
However, you should get in the habit of scheduling weekly or monthly conference calls with your strategic partners so you can give each other updates and discuss business development topics. Be sure to schedule these calls in any scheduling apps that you use.
- Make Sure You Share the Same Vision
As your company grows, your values and business development goals may change, and that may cause a strain on your partnership—likewise if your strategic partner grows rapidly. That’s why it’s important to form a partnership with a company that sees you as a long-term factor in their growth, and them with yours. Otherwise, they may abandon you at the first sign of financial trouble. Remember that both companies should grow in a strategic partnership, not just one. Still, it’s important to talk with your strategic partnership about how your business contract may change as your companies grow larger—this is something important to consider when you’re scaling your startup.
Forming a great strategic partnership is never easy and there are always going to be some bumps in the road. But if you follow these 5 simple tips, you’re more likely to form a partnership that’s financially beneficial for both your company and theirs.