There’s a certain sense of accomplishment and dignity that comes with running a small business. Not only are resources and funding within a small business limited when compared to its larger corporate counterparts, but the employee base is significantly smaller and tight-knit (or even nonexistent, if it’s just you). This somewhat noble demeanor of small businesses is reminiscent of the famous Lone Ranger.
In light of this nice picture I’ve just painted of small businesses, there’s something missing: the trusty sidekick. Even the Lone Ranger, in spite of his enigmatic title, had Tonto to back him up in tricky situations. Small businesses fill niche markets and cater to specific audiences, but every once in a while they might come across something that is not quite their specialty—does that mean a client should be turned away? Of course not! That is the power of partnering.
For example, say you run a private contracting firm. A potential client comes your way, proposing a sizable job that includes a lot of fancy solid wood flooring. What if you don’t personally have the connections to get your customers the best price on wood flooring? That could be a lost sale to a competitor who (in your opinion) provides lower quality work but has access to good flooring wholesalers.
By partnering, you can make contracts with other companies to very mutually beneficial ends. Pooling information, resources, and human capital is somewhat daunting, but may in the end be well worth the effort. Why not share qualified leads? Are you selling something their customers might also want? Are they providing a service that would greatly assist your current clients? Partnering is not a one-way street, because the synergy and success of your two (or more) companies is the end goal of the relationship.
To aid in the success of a business partnership, remember these tips:
1. Make sure you’re both happy – again, partnering is a two-way street; this is no time to take advantage of one another
2. Write it down – contracts and agreements keep everything clear, and inspire confidence between partners
3. Don’t keep score – your partner might be achieving better growth percentages because of the partnership, and that’s fine; as long as you feel your company is also receiving benefits without experiencing loss, the partnership is a good thing.
While it might seem the good and independent thing to do, don’t try to be a Lone Ranger without a sidekick—strength and safety come in numbers. Many potential clients can come and go simply because your business isn’t a Swiss army knife. Partnering with other business, especially other small business, can lead to increased growth and resources that would otherwise be unrealized. Think about it, and think about what partnering might do for you.