7 Steps for Building Strategic Business Partnerships

7 Steps for Building Strategic Business Partnerships

By: Erin Venable | May 25, 2017

There are a lot of ways for your business to find success in today’s ultra-competitive market and forging a strategic partnership is one tactic to stay relevant. By collaborating with another business, you will get access to their resources and perspective. In a strong partnership, the other business can help your company grow in ways that you might never have expected and they will prompt innovations within your business that will improve your bottom-line. An advantageous business partnership can advance your business, as long as it is done right. With these steps in mind, you will be able to forge the strategic business partnership your company needs to get ahead. These steps address both advice for choosing the right business partner and how to be successful with the business partner you have chosen.

Steps 1 - 4: How To Choose The Right Partner Business

1. Know Your Company And Your Needs

When searching for a potential partner, you need to first know your company’s strengths and weakness. From there, you will be able to decide what your business needs to improve and what a potential partner can gain from collaborating with you. This will take a critical examination of your business, which can be done by your company’s leadership, employees, or even customers. Reach out to your internal and external resources to get an honest assessment of your business. Take the time to consider what weaknesses need to be addressed to discern how they can be improved. The strengths of your company are great motivators for another company to collaborate with you. Know them well in order to present your business in the best light possible.

2. Research Your Options

The key to finding success through a strategic business partnership is to first find the right company to partner with. This step in the process is arguably the most important of all. Finding a company that has a complimentary culture and values is a difficult task, but there are some ways that you can go about making this search easier. Finding partnership options can be done through networking events or referrals from your customers and employees. By contacting and researching other companies in your field, you may be able to find viable partnership candidates.

When actually considering partner businesses, make sure to get information from the potential partner’s employees and customers. Meet with them at their office and get to know their leadership and teams that will participate in the partnership. Keeping an eye out for a company with similar values, but a different culture or perspective may also help you find a partnership that challenges your company and pushes you to innovate in unexpected ways.

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3. Choose And Discuss Goals With Potential Partners

Once you have narrowed down your options and are in discussion with a small number of companies, it’s time to have a meeting about your businesses' goals and the goals of the partnership. This discussion should make it clear if the other company has similar goals and values as your business. Discuss not only what you would like to accomplish, but also question their motives and specific objectives. It can also help to consider possible mutual goals of the collaboration. Working together with them to create objectives should give you an idea of what the long term partnership would be like and help you assess the company’s viability as a candidate for partnership.

4. Talk Through The Collaboration Process

Business partnerships require a lot of work to be successful and making decisions before the collaboration begins will make things easier once the project starts. Make sure to talk through the specifics of working together, the teams involved, a schedule. The more details you address, the smoother the project will run. This collaboration process conversation can also help you choose between potential partner companies. If your companies have wildly different ideas for the process of working together, it might not be a good long term fit. If you can work together to build a process that both parties agree with, then you will likely be ready to move forward with this collaboration. You will be confident in your decision if you have demonstrated evidence of the success of the partnership.

Steps 5 - 7: How To Be Successful In Your Business Partnership

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5. Be Ready For The Ups And The Downs

You have picked a partner, and the project has begun, but now what do you need to do to keep the collaboration going well? Partnering will bring your company many benefits, but it takes time for things to run smoothly and there will be bumps in the road. Expect that tough situations will arise and be committed to fixing them and working through them together. Working within one business is complicated, let alone collaborating with an entirely different company. Be patient and expect that things will be more difficult in the beginning until your process has been tested and a strong foundation for the partnership has been built.

6. Communication Is Key

As in all relationships in life, communication is key to the success of both parties. Make sure that you are ready to have open, patient communications with your new partner business. The only way to work through all the messiness and problems that arise is by listening and working hard to communicate in the most respectful and efficient way possible.

Just preparing for the difficulties that might arise isn’t enough. Once the problems have arisen, communication between both parties will guide you to the best possible resolution. Complications in your joint projects may even necessitate an in-person meeting to get things sorted out. Remote meetings are very useful and are more easily scheduled, but communicating effectively becomes easier when both parties are talking face to face. Communicate with your partner company regularly, schedule in-person meetings when necessary, and try to be as effective and patient as possible when interacting with them.

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7. Gain As Much Knowledge As You Can

Working with another company means access to their resources, perspective, and practices. Don’t pass up such a valuable opportunity. Learn from them. Ask for their opinions of your company and take what they say to heart. Their outside perspective may open your business to new opportunities and improvements. Consider their ideas and business practices and decide if your company can also utilize any of their innovations in order to advance. This is a great opportunity for your company to grow, so make the most of it. That will prove that your company can adapt and improve while ensuring that this partnership is successful.

There are many benefits to finding a strategic business partner for your company. They can give you a fresh perspective, access to new resources, and opportunities to grow. But building a strong, mutually-beneficial relationship is complicated and takes a lot of dedication. With these step in mind, your company should be able to first find the ideal partner-business and then create an enduring relationship that brings both parties new success.

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