How do you find the best organizations to partner with in your market? Do you know which other companies are working with your best clients? Where do they work in your client’s organization? Can you get your client to introduce you to the other companies? As your business grows, you might want to consider investing in building a better partnership strategy that can help both partners get better business results. Over the years, I’ve seen many organizations bought and sold because they met through a mutual client.
I’ve put together a partnership framework I use when I’m trying to identify good partnering opportunities for my clients. I thought it might be helpful to share it here and see how you could improve your partnership opportunities. As one of the critical elements when looking to sell your business, many buyers are looking to see who your partners are and how well that partnership is adding to sales and profits. I’ve seen several larger organizations buy smaller organizations based on several key partnerships in emerging technology markets. This acquisition allows them to jumpstart new practices with a blueprint they can rollout across their organization. Let’s look at how I find partnership opportunities.
First, I research my potential partners. I check all the material I can find; reviewing their web sites, looking at their social media presence, following them on all the different social networks. During this time, I’m also looking for clues that might help me better understand who they are and what they are trying to accomplish. Many of my partners have similar challenges. They need more resources, they need to provide their employees with more challenges, and they could use help in their revenue raising activities. Creating synergistic relationships with a larger company can open the door to many new partnerships for both organizations.
Now, what do I do with the information I’ve gathered on potential partners? My second step is to put it in a profile. I try to review potential partners at least 3-5 times a week. I use Google alerts to help me with this. It provides me a wide source of information that lets me better understand the direction the target organization is going and where they are investing their marketing and publicity efforts.
In a very short time, I can determine how I might be able to help them. I also begin identifying the right person or people to talk with about their challenges. At this stage, I’m looking for someone who might be able to open the door for me. I might share my interest with professional associates who may know someone within the target organization. I also ask these people what they think about the target organization. Have they, or anyone they know, tried to work with the group? What were the results or what frustrated their efforts in their own attempts? This gives me an opportunity to better understand what difficulties I might run into.
This process also gives me a stronger relationship with my network. I’m looking for their advice and expertise in a way that builds the foundation of a great relationship. You cannot believe what you can learn from others when you ask, then listen to what they say. I am always open to returning the favor with my many network contacts.
When I complete this phase, I might check back in with the people with whom I started my conversations. I close the loop and thank them for their introductions. I might also ask them if they’d like to grab lunch or some time at the zoo with me. Every major city I work in has a zoo. I find it less expensive than having an office in all my clients’ locations. Many of my best clients love taking pictures and love to improve their photography. This gives me a personal connection to my network.
Third, after reviewing all the material I’ve assembled I decide if I want to invest my time in the partner. There are many organizations that need assistance but only a small number that I can actually impact in a way that is beneficial for both them and my client. I’ve worked with many great partners over the past 30 years, but I’ve made the biggest contribution where I can add significant value to the partnership. I know what I do best and I also try to make sure the group is ready and able to build a strong partnership. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to help and not making progress in reasonable time. Notice I say in reasonable time. In my executive life, I’m used to making faster decisions and being responsible for the results. In the partnership world, I’ve learned to take my time building trust and understanding before becoming totally invested in the partnership. This has allowed for faster results and less frustration on both sides of the partnership.
See you next week