When I launched one of my companies, the Small Business Summit, I started it with a partner. She was an older white lady, who had an MBA and was great with numbers. I was a young black guy, who loved marketing (hated numbers) and event production. We were a great fit. This was one of my first successful partnerships. It worked so well, we eventually sold the business.
You can't grow your business alone. You need a team. A partner can be a great part of that team.
Trust is everything in partnerships.
Hiring vs having a partner.
Hiring an employee or free lancer is one way to get the expertise you need and delegate responsibilities to someone else. I've used UpWork quite a bit to hire freelancers.
Hiring someone, you have to pay them whether you succeed or not.
On the other hand, if you're wildly successful they earn what you agreed to pay them, nothing more, nothing less.
A partnership is different.
With a partner or a joint venture, you're joining with someone who is your equal - in one way or another.
The best partnerships are where you both bring strengths to the table and are jointly going towards a common goal.
If you're creating a business together, that's often a 50/50 partnership where both of you have an equal say in decisions and a share of the profits generated.
Michelle Blue writes about how to work with your business partner.
Other partnerships that I've found successful are where you bring in a partner for a particular portion of the business and you share in agreed profits from that segment of the business and collaborate on the decisions to grow that part of the business and//or a particular project.
Trust is everything.
The best partnerships are built on trust. The longer you know a person, the more you've worked with them before the partnership and the more you respect each other, the better the partnership is.
Of course, things can go wrong, so think what's the worst that could happen to you and then determine how the partnership or joint venture should be structured. If need be, get a lawyer. I've never had any partnership I've been in go wrong, so I'm grateful.
Finding the perfect partner.
Every situation is going to be different, so what works for you, might not work for me. Finding the perfect partner is an art, not a science, but here's some guidelines to consider.
- Know what YOU are skilled at.
- Know what skills you want in a partner.
- How long have you known the partner?
- How long have you seen how THEY work with others and their own business?
- Are you both clear on the vision and end result?
- Are you clear on HOW to get their?
- Do you have an written agreement, even if it's simple, of the partnership or joint venture details?
How Am I Using Partnerships in My Business?
One part of my business is focused on producing events - live, in-person events, or online events "virtual summits".
Producing an event takes a few things.
- You've got to have speakers
- You've got to have a great overall agenda (mainly the speakers you have, host, flow)
- The location (either the online platform or the venue).
- Marketing plan (it takes a LOT to get people to sign up)
- Miscellaneous things (food? audio/video? staff?) - especially if an in-person event.
I've done events for years, but now I have a partner. We work together to produce the event, leveraging her skills and leveraging my skills. We can scale OURSELVES. She has strengths, I have strengths and we have complimentary and overlapping strengths.
With a partner I don't have to HIRE someone.
But MOST important, with a partner I have someone who can help THINK with me at a high-level and strategically about this part of the business. We share the profits. They get to expand their business and I get to expand mine.
Maybe you want to grow your coaching business and your expertise is online marketing. What if you and a partner worked together to grow the business, sharing your expertise and sharing in the TIME it takes to market your collective coaching business.
What if you're in need of event space or office space and you're able to find a partner who can help you grow. You leverage their space and they leverage the complementary foot traffic coming in to their location from your event.
There's lots of ways partnerships can work.
For larger companies they can hire senior staff to manage and develop their business.
Smaller company owners, working with partners, who have shared interests can be a very powerful way to grow and do more, while not investing capital in hiring someone.
Of course you'll be sharing in the profits of that growth.
What about you?
What's your partnerships been like? What kind of partner do you want?