As a growing business, entering into a partnership can be something of a catch-22 situation. On one hand, the larger partner has useful skills, resources, and expertise in the market and industry, which could be used to guide your business into the right channels and direction.

On the other, you are the smaller partner, and smaller implies weaker or less important; how can you make sure that this is not the case? How can you make sure that you achieve success, even in such a partnership?

This is one of the important partnership issues we will be covering in our upcoming GoToWebinar webinar, which will be held on Wednesday 22 February. To get us warmed up, let’s take a look at some of the ways businesses can achieve success and avoid failure when partnering with a larger partner.

Start With Mutual Understanding

You can’t expect your partner to understand where you are coming from if you do not understand this yourself. This is why it is so important to develop a platform upon which you both can build, right from the get-go.

How is such a platform built and deployed? By discussing, planning, and defining. Hold extensive meetings before you enter into the partnership, outlining what you both hope to achieve from the union, the actions you will take to get to that point, how you will define your success, and any other points which need ironing out. Doing this at the start is much, much easier than doing it retroactively at a later stage.

Be Personal and Flexible

It is not realistic, and not necessarily helpful, for you to be best buddies with your opposite number at the company you enter into a partnership with, but it is advisable to form a personal connection. Doing business and organising meetings and joint operations is made so much easier when you have a person you know and trust at the other end. Getting to know the person or team you will be working with is a big part of this.

However, it also pays to be flexible. Organisations—particularly larger ones—are prone to reshuffles; people get promoted, move departments, or even leave altogether. It is a shame to spend months nurturing a relationship, only for that person to be replaced. Aim to develop several contacts you can rely on, and to apply this level of flexibility to other areas of the partnership, too.

Demonstrate What You Can Do

As the smaller partner, it may sometimes feel like you have to do that little bit more to get your voice heard. Don’t worry about this; just make sure you are doing it. Have an area of expertise in which your partner organisation is lacking? Make that known. Brought something special into the partnership? Don’t stay quiet about it.

There is nothing wrong with demonstrating what you can do and do well. What you need to do is make sure that you aren’t letting your efforts go unappreciated.

Take the Agreement Seriously

As with business transactions, an agreement or set of rules is essential. This is especially important for a partnership where one is significantly bigger than the other. If you’re the smaller partner, an agreement ensures that you won’t be bullied into submitting and taking the shorter end of the stick when it comes to deals, or if the whole partnership itself goes south. Even before you’re at the agreement stage, it’s important that your partner is willing to confirm your discussions in writing – if they won’t, this is a red flag you must pay attention to.

This is why studying and taking part in creating the agreement is also imperative to make sure that there are a governing set of rules that will guide both parties and help make sure they’ll be able to attain the partnership’s goals as agreed upon.

Make Sure Both Parties Follow the Golden Rules for a Successful Partnership

We discussed in a previous blog based on my interview with 2UE presenter John Stanley, the golden rules for a successful partnership. For those who missed it, these are:

  • Strategic partnerships must be a win-win
  • Your target markets must be aligned
  • Your values must be compatible

These rules are applicable to all partnerships, no matter the size of the parties involved. Making sure that you and your partner company adhere to these rules enhances your chances of gaining partnership success not only for you but your partner as well. Click here for an in-depth explanation of each rule.

Appraise, and then Reappraise

Some partnerships are golden; others, less so. You need to know which category your partnership falls into. At the beginning, you outlined your aims and objectives; take a look at those. Are you where you wanted to be? Are you even where you expected you would be? If not, why not?

Appraising and reappraising the situation is a key factor in business. If something is just not right, you need to understand when to work at it and when to let it go. Make sure you have the insight and understanding required to make this decision if the time comes.

To learn more about achieving success in a partnership, tune in to the Strategic Partnerships Expert Panel: How to Ensure You’re Set Up for Success webinar I’m hosting on Wednesday, February 22. Leverage the insights and knowledge of the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, a legal expert in partnerships, and a small business owner who nearly lost her 7 figure business overnight due to a failed partnership. These experts will be on hand to give you valuable insights and answer your questions to help guide you to achieve partnership success. There are already over 600 people registered so don’t delay as we do have limited numbers on the call! Click here to reserve your spot now.


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