Small business partnerships – part 2

January 30, 2014


Small businesses have much to gain from strong, creative and long-term partnerships. It is often believed that partnerships are only for big corporations that have the manpower and the money to invest in the relationship. Another belief is that partnerships are primarily driven for marketing purposes.

Though both beliefs are correct, they do not capture the benefits for most small businesses. This article aims to help the small business owner decide if a partnership is valuable and what comes in play when it is.

Part 1 was published last week and listed the most quoted advantages of having a partnership before diving into the four steps any small business should take before talking publicly about wanting or having partnerships.

The first step was to understand your market position with the handy tip to create a simple SWOT analysis and the second step to know the kind of partnership you want. This week’s article covers step three and four: selecting the right partner and keeping a strong relationship.

Step 3. Select the right partner

There’s a lot of ground to cover when selecting the right business partner. With the information you have about yourself, it is now time to uncover more data about potential partners. Start finding small businesses via the following channels:

  • Professional and industry specific organization and associations
  • Business vendors that you already use or you know others use in your industry
  • Ask others and get references

Before approaching these businesses, make sure they have the resources you need such as human, in-kind, financial and knowledge. This is what I call the technical side of finding your partner. Next comes the valuable side that is focused on ensuring there is synergy and alignment in how you want to work together and what you want to achieve.

It is useful at this point to create a Venn diagram that shows who scores high on your list. Seek out if the small businesses scoring high are interested and have an open mind. The biggest tip I can give you is to make sure you don’t sell yourself short and have a signed partnership agreement.

Step 4. Keep the partnership going

So, you got yourself a partner – now what? Depending on the type of partnership, you will for example focus on creating events or developing discounts.

The biggest hurdle at this point is that trust is not yet a given. Having a formal agreement is great, but is not the same as communicating as often as you can and as transparent as possible. Key to trust is to make sure you provide the sweat equity as promised and show true leadership.

Manage expectations and discuss evaluation early on. You need success indicators to evaluate on an ongoing basis that benefit all parties of the small business partnership.

If you haven’t read part one yet, I suggest you do so now to have a more complete picture.


Lisette Andreyko

Lisette is the founder of Kaleidoscope and is passionate about start-up leadership, personal growth and women in business (and psst.. about tea!). She enjoys connecting with small businesses through her network. You can find her on LinkedIn.