June 7, 2011
Can you remember when you first started building your first company? Or possibly you are just starting out in a new venture? While entrepreneurship is full of possibilities, many entrepreneurs feel as though it’s a one man ‘or woman’ show.
We’ve all felt that way at some point. But the truth of the matter is simple. “Me, myself and I” shouldn’t be the only partnership in your business? And if by chance it is, the time has come to let go and embrace the power of partnership.
Decipher Your Business Need
Do you know what and who you need to catalyze your efforts and take your business to the next level? On the surface the answer may be, “I need more customers” or “I need to increase sales.” But truthfully, I’ve found that customers, sales revenue and awareness are all byproducts of something a bit deeper.
Business exists to fill a need and generate a profit. The mechanisms that contribute to the former (customers and revenue) start with the identification of inputs and the leverage of partnerships. For example, if you’re the strategic leader tasked with the vision of your company then it’s important to identify individuals to help make your idea tangible. Take your business from ideation to creation.
Wearing multiple hats is the norm during the seeding stage of business. But a state of ‘me’ should eventually evolve into a business of ‘we.’ Yes, you can assign “Me” as the project manager, “Myself” as the Developer and “I” as the Designer. But let’s face it, a company focused on you and your capabilities will not likely experience long-term success.
Develop Strategic Alliances
By definition a strategic alliance is a relationship between two or more parties to pursue mutual goals or to meet a critical business need while remaining independent organizations. The essence of partnership is cooperation and collaboration. Each partner’s benefit from the alliance should be greater than that of their own individual effort.
Alliances exist in various forms, from joint ventures, mentor-protégé, prime-subcontractors to channel partnerships (distributors, vendors, retailers and/or consultants). At various stages your business can benefit from all types of partnership.
What is the best way to develop a strategic alliance? Start networking, and seek out complimentary businesses. Don’t start by telling someone how great you are and what you can do. Instead, start with, “I really admire what you are doing in business. How I can help you grow your business?”
By default, taking an active interest in someone else’s business makes you more interesting. Ultimately, your ability to add value to others becomes a unique selling point.
Once you’ve developed a relationship, start to nurture that relationship by sharing ideas and discussing opportunities. Some of the best strategic partners are active mastermind participants with a dedicated focus on testing and execution. In summary, follow the steps below to building a profitable and beneficial alliance:
1. Start networking
2. Develop a plan
3. Consult with advisers for legal and financial advice
4. Create a strategic plan and outline terms
5. Establish success metrics
The Intrinsic Benefits of Collaboration
One of the most important things to remember about partnership and strategic alliance is the process of transfer. The goal is move ideas, knowledge and expertise from one place to another.
“The most successful partnerships and alliances are those that are well planned, mutually beneficial, and properly managed,” said Lisa Nicole Bell, Founder/CEO of Inspired Life Media Group, an independent omnimedia conglomerate that employs film, television, new media, print, and live events. “Without having developed tools for initiating, assessing, and creating alliances, entrepreneurs often become paralyzed with fear and end up drowning in an attempt to do everything themselves.”
As a strategic partner if you are not passing on tangible or intangible outputs, then you aren’t adding value. Find ways to start delivering value immediately.
When companies actively collaborate the potential reward outpaces the risk. The shared accountability of a venture that once seemed risky soon becomes more viable and opportune.
Move your Business from ‘Me’ to ‘We’
The power of partnership is undeniable. When you are ready to get started, ensure to outline the mutually agreed upon terms upfront. Don’t forget to clarify mutual goals, the accountability of each partner and identify the value proposition.
Negotiate any tangible or tangible outputs such as financial agreement percentages, payment or barter if applicable. Share a non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement. Make sure your agreement has an exit clause. Lastly, set timelines for progress and schedule ongoing communication.
Working towards a common goal is rewarding. Not only will you expose your business to new ideas, expertise and opportunity but you will provide tremendous value to strategic alliance partners. Ultimately, learning to move your business from ‘me’ to ‘we’ is the first step towards a sustainable and profitable business.
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