23rd April 2015

Game changing partnerships… and how to make them work

If we consider that we are personally only as good as our network or brand, the same principle applies to our business. Therefore the brands and organisations we align our company with will either enhance or detract from its positioning.

Partnerships are key to growth, and as a small business we do this by standing on the shoulders of bigger and more established brands for mutual benefit.

We see the power of partnerships regularly in the social sector where a piece- meal approach to complex issues is ineffective. Instead collective impact, which is the term used to describe the process where several organisations come together with a common vision working towards a common goal, is gaining momentum.

In the private sector collaboration is just as powerful. It starts by considering who has the customers you want as their current customer? Once you can answer this you have the basis for your list of target partners.

Subsequent questions to explore are

  • Which companies share your target market but are not your competitors?
  • Which brands share your company ethos and values?
  • Which brands are vocal about wanting to cater to your target audience?

Be strategic and focus on your areas of strength, so focus your resources on what you do best and then partner for the rest. In this new economy partnerships allow us to pool resources, capital, talent and market share which gives us a competitive advantage. Then once you’ve established and developed your partnership, stick to some ground rules tried and tested by some of the world’s most experienced serial entrepreneurs. These are;

  • Have a written and signed partnership agreement in which every detail and obligation is clearly defined, written out, and agreed upon by all parties.
  • Don’t have a 50/50 partnership. Opt for 70/30 or 60/40 so that there is still an accountable party.
  • Don’t partner because you can’t afford to hire. If you’ve got the idea and someone else has the skill, simply hire him or work out an independent contractor agreement. Don’t give away what you don’t have to.

A successful partnership allows you to recognize your own weaknesses, and draw on a partner’s strengths, without being uncomfortable about that vulnerability. That comfort as Warren Buffett says, comes from a complete lack of envy in a partnership. Partners must value trust, they must discover how to keep their ego in check, and they must put a premium on not just brains, but human decency. If we are in an age where loss of integrity is an ever-growing concern, then partnerships counter that.

Finally, if you want to partner with big brands then you have to think like them – and be sure that you can cater to the increased demand that your partnership will likely deliver!

By Jessica Huie, MBE



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