Partnerships can be a great way for small businesses to increase visibility, reach new audiences and sell more products. A business partnership has a lot of similarities to a romantic relationship and some of the same advice applies. Trust your instincts, date before you commit and make sure you can really live together before getting married.
But, just like with your personal relationships, the more involved you get with a
#1. Just Dating
Like a young professional at a happy hour, a new business should keep an open mind about potential partnerships. Talk to a lot of people (businesses), but only give your number to the ones where you feel there’s a spark and you see real potential to work together. However, unlike when you’re dating, don’t worry too much if a specific prospect doesn’t work out – there’ll always be more opportunities.
If you want to move forward, it’s even more important in business to start slowly. You wouldn’t want to go on a 7-day cruise with someone you just met and you don’t want to agree to a multi-year marketing partnership with a business you don’t know well either. Set up a small, time-limited and measurable campaign so you can test the waters before getting more serious.
#2. In a Relationship
Now things are heating up. But, don’t move in together just yet. This is when you get to really know your partner and their unique personality quirks. In a relationship, you might get annoyed when your significant other doesn’t pick up their clothes off the floor, or leaves dirty dishes in the sink.
With a business partner, it could be habits like late responses to customer complaints or a lack of focus on quality execution. Are there any deal breakers? Once you’re committed to each other, your partner’s actions will reflect on your brand as well.
Life is full of compromises and you may come to accept, or even cherish, your partners personality quirks over time. But, if certain things are starting to grate on you now – they’re not going to go away the longer you’re together. Do people ever really change? I’ll leave that one to the real relationship experts.
The most likely outcome is that people will keep acting exactly like they always did, and if you’re not comfortable with that, now is the time to part ways. Just tell them – It’s not you, it’s me. Just make sure you tie up all the loose ends, you don’t want any lingering liabilities as a reminder of your past relationships.
#3. We’re Getting Married
Exciting! You’re ready to commit until death, or a contract breach, do you part. If you’re really ready, it’s time to make if official. Write up a contract and make sure your company is protected. You can easily find a template online to get started.
Now that your union is formalized and official, you need to switch from Their Problem to Our Problem mode. If something goes wrong and it impacts your business, it’s now both of your responsibilities to make it right for the customer. It’s all about teamwork and complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
A long-term business partnership is just like a marriage, it takes work from both sides to make it successful.
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