As a startup founder, you’re running on all cylinders, always on the lookout for opportunities to get better traction for your business. There are never shortcuts in life or business, but one trick to ramping up quickly is to find great strategic partnerships.
When you partner with other companies or people, you gain a cornucopia of internal benefits, but you also help your customers in the process. Partnerships with larger companies can boost your business by providing more resources than you’ll have on a startup budget. Vendor partnerships will help you better serve customers because you can offer add-on services to increase their value as well.
At my company, we partner with consultants who are out in the field more than we are. They come back to us with great industry insights that help us respond to market needs. As a result, we’re able to build or enhance solutions to answer the true needs of our customers.
Partners can also provide great feedback on processes. If your partner is a larger company, you can look to the company’s team for ideas on structuring everything from hiring to new customer acquisition. You can also seek candid feedback that will help you build the right processes for your employees and your customers.
With so many potential benefits to these strategic business relationships, it seems like a no-brainer to make these connections as soon as possible. But setting the proper building blocks with the right businesses is key — skip these steps, and all of that potential value is lost.
Finding the Right Partnerships
Not all partners are created equal, of course. Even the best ones aren’t always easy, and it’s important to vet a partner before entering into any contractual agreements.
To identify the right candidates, look for three things: leverage, scalability, and incremental revenue. Ensure the potential partner has a strategic position you can leverage for growth. Make sure the format of the engagement is repeatable, and look for the ability to increase revenue as a direct result of the relationship. Without those three aspects, any partnership will be dead on arrival.
Nurturing the Right Partnerships
Once you’ve identified your perfect partners, there’s still some legwork to be done to make sure the relationship stays mutually beneficial.
1. Open your mouths — and your ears. Just as in any relationship, great communication is the key to success. Set up regular meetings for updates and feedback. These check-ins will allow you to reduce the element of surprise and ensure everything is running smoothly. We use our meetings to learn more about our consultants’ needs. This helps us support them and increase sales in ways we would miss if we didn’t check in regularly.
2. Bring the executives in on the action. It’s not enough for partners to just meet with their liaison in the company. It’s also important that leaders meet with partners on a regular basis. This is a huge differentiator for us. When executives hear new voices from the field giving strategic business insight, they tend to pay attention — and changes start to happen.
3. Roll out the chalkboard and syllabus. Make sure you’re regularly educating your partners, keeping them up-to-date on products and services. This will keep you top of mind, as well as allow you to share market insights that will help your partners. These regular updates will guard against misalignment, which can be key for startups as you search for the right fit.
Finding and keeping the right partners can be a huge asset to a startup. When you can’t afford to hire all the services and people you need, partnerships will take your business further and faster than you could on your own.