Tips for Partnering with Another Business

Author: Gina Hall | November 3, 2015

Whether business is booming or you’re bootstrapping a startup, you should consider establishing partnerships with other entrepreneurs.

Businesses partner for many different reasons. Maybe someone in your building wants to share office supplies, buy in bulk or form a small group health insurance plan. Other businesses partner up to share rental costs on an office space.

Still others partner out of a need to grow their client base. Customer referrals and new clients are a few of the benefits your business can win by partnering with another leader in your field. But how do you go about forging your first partnerships? Here are a few suggestions.

Look for symbiosis
If you were shopping for your wedding cake, you might appreciate a shop owner who referred you to the best location to buy your wedding bouquet, right?

Research companies in your industry. While you may not want to partner with direct competitors, find businesses you could forge a symbiotic relationship with. Maybe you offer consulting services to clients in a development phase and you could refer them to a partner who services them when they’re ready to take action. Your partner could refer other clients back to you if they still need development advice.

The approach
How do you reach out to a business you’re interested in partnering with? You have to ask. Unless you have a prior relationship, it’s going to be a cold call, but you can find the most personal way to reach out. That may be through a mutual connection or a contact form on the company’s website. Try to reach out to the most senior executive you can get a hold of.

Promote, promote, promote
Companies are always looking for a way to promote their brand and there are more platforms than ever that brands have to pay attention to. Make marketing easier on a potential partner by promising to promote their brand across your platforms, including social media channels, newsletters, blogs and through word-of-mouth.

Set goals
Once you establish a partnership, it’s necessary to outline expectations. How much business do you hope your partner will push your way? Are there any resources you could share to cut costs? How will you solve disputes?

This may be a casual conversation or, if a lot is at stake, you may need to consult a lawyer.

Track and re-evaluate
Don’t let your partnership become a one-sided affair, make sure you get as much as you give. Track the benefits and favors your partner provides. Is your partner helping you grow? If the partnership is costing your business in time or resources, it may be time to re-evaluate the situation.

Don’t stop at just one
Partnerships come and go and generally last as long as it’s convenient for both parties. Don’t put all your effort into one partnership, play the field. Other businesses may offer more products and services than your first partner. You could even build a tight knit group of partners who work in conjunction to make clients’ lives less of a hassle, earning each company repeat business.

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