Your business focus changes as it moves beyond the start-up phase. Even if you’re happy with your current performance, it’s important to keep looking for ways to grow your business and ensure sustainability.
Partnerships can offer small businesses the opportunity to grow in ways that neither business could do alone. Some partnerships are long-term and last several years; others are short-term and temporary.
Whatever the model, those small and medium sized enterprises taking advantage of partnerships can use partner strengths to make their business capabilities stronger in the long run.
Partnerships can give you access to financial resources, skills and experience, increased capacity, and better distribution channels. It can also open you up to new markets or improve your offerings to existing ones.
Partnering with NLOWE Members
NLOWE programs and events are great places to make connections with potential future partners. Member businesses operate in a wide-range of industries in various stages of growth, so if you are looking to partner, our membership is a great place to start. If you are looking for a potential partner in a specific industry, try searching our online membership directory by sector using the advanced search option. The directory can be accessed at www.nlowe.org.
Setting up a partnership can offer your business new opportunities to explore and bring about major changes to your business. The first step is to assess your own business readiness and to identify clearly your purpose in forming a business partnership.
Your purpose will drive who it is you decide to choose as a partner. The ideal partner is one who has resources, skills and assets that are not identical but complement your own.
Assess fit. Regardless of the benefits the partnership may give your potential for growth, it needs to fit with your overall business strategy and be a good fit between the cultures of the two companies. Always review your own business strategy before committing to a partnership.
Communicate. Communication is essential to a successful partnership. Get your new venture off to a good start with a face-to-face meeting involving all key people. This will get everyone’s ideas, concerns, and expectations on the table and create positive momentum.
Build a common vision. Before starting, everyone involved should understand what is expected from the partnership. Make sure everyone knows what you hope to achieve so you are all working towards the same goals.
Members who Partner
Strangers until meeting in NLOWE’s Business Connections Program, Lynn Best, CreAction Consulting, Jamie McCabe, Clay Café-Avalon and Melany Otis, Find Food Factory, partnered to offer a “Discover Your True Colors™” workshop for businesses and organizations. The unique workshop included a ½ day session on “Personality at Work,” 2-hours to create a personalized True Colors™ mug or picture frame, and a delicious lunch.
Define and measure results. Establishing clear performance indicators lets you measure performance and can provide early warning of potential problems. Define the measures of success up front and develop metrics that will be tracked, measured, and used to determine if the partnership was successful.
Protect your interests. When you decide to create a partnership, you should set out the terms and conditions in a written legal agreement. This will help prevent any misunderstandings once the partnership begins or ends. Drafting vague agreements, especially in situations where financial commitments are not clearly established, is a common mistake.
Make sure the responsibilities and rewards are clearly spelled out and outline the benefits and revenue each partner will receive. Even in the best relationship, you will almost certainly have problems from time to time. Your original agreement should set out jointly accepted dispute resolution procedures in case you are unable to resolve these differences yourselves. This is an important step, so make sure you have sound legal advice before proceeding.
Members who Partner
Nadine Harding, owner of The Ivory Suite Bridal Boutique, and Andrea Sharpe, owner of Karlande Designs Ltd., have partnered as a result of an introduction by Carolann Harding of the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development. Andrea offers custom designed bridal jewellery for Nadine’s clients.
Focus on creating ‘quick wins’. Do not take on too much too fast. You run the risk that your alliance will be viewed as just another “program of the month” that did not work. Start small, build momentum, and highlight successes. Teaming up should be a win-win situation for all partners. Decide on what these early wins will be so that you can both set your focus on realizing your goals.
Members who Partner
After meeting through NLOWE and attending a couple of trade missions together, Anne Whelan, Brenkir Industrial Supply, and Hilda Broomfield-Letemplier, Pressure Pipe Steel, Fabrication Ltd. realized they had some synergies. Both WEConnect certified, together they provide industrial and safety products to the Muskrat Falls site using Hilda’s local/regional distribution strengths and Anne’s knowledge of industrial supply. “A true partnership,” said Anne “each of us play a role in business, and we look forward to growing it.”
Look at what other businesses are doing, particularly those that operate in the same industry or similar markets to yours. Seeing how others have used partnerships to grow their businesses could give you the inspiration and direction you need to take that first step. Success depends on thorough research and analysis of aims and objectives. The most successful partnerships have structure, support accountability, and encourage collaboration.