Making Business Partnerships Work

By Anna Kennedy

All too often, services firms get involved in partnerships that are founded on quicksand. People are excited at the beginning, but not a lot seems to happen after that. Even with a heap of goodwill, partnerships flounder without a solid basis for a thriving relationship.

So before you jump into a partnership, what should you consider? Here’s the lifecycle of a partnership:

  • Invent ‘partnership’ as a business strategy. Figure out what kinds of partnerships will be of benefit to you. Although all companies want more business, a partnership also needs to be a win-win. Define what success looks like for both parties and what achieving it is going to take. In other words, create a plan and share it with your potential partner.

  • Invest in the relationship. You’re going to have to invest time, marketing, sales effort and working on the partnership itself to get the result. This means serious money. Get some realistic estimations from your team as to the effort and investment. Sit down and do a cost/benefit analysis – are the predicted business results worth the investment?

  • Throw your heart into it. Define a timeframe for working the partnership and what you expect to achieve, and then go for it. Schedule time for the work, set aside budget for the investment and get the team going.

  • Evaluate, reinvent and reinvest. Any worthwhile partnership produces expanding results over time. Formally review the progress the partnership is making and consider whether an opportunity exists to take the relationship to another level. This widening can include anything from working more closely together to considering a merger. Rethink your investment to match the new goals.

  • End gracefully. If the time comes to end the partnership, make a clear break. If the relationship never really had legs, don’t let it suffer a slow death. Get together with your partner and review what’s happened. Thank the firm for its efforts and be clear why you both need to move on. If it’s been a roaring success but its day is done, celebrate with your partner and then part as friends.

When dealing with partners, give them the same attention as you would your customers. Add them to your emailing database and send them updates on how you’re doing. Ask them for a testimonial and write one for them. Celebrate success ‒ invite them to visit occasionally and have a social event, or do a virtual ‘party’, such as a Google Hangout, where you can make merry online.