Business owners tend to be the type of person who is independent and prides him or herself on being “self-made”, which is a good thing, but when you are that type of person, it’s important to remember that you can gain an advantage from partnering up with others, too. There are a variety of ways that you can connect with other people and organizations to help with growing your business.
Whether you just need someone to join up with you in the business because they have something they can bring to the table, or you find another business with which you can work together for mutual gain, a partner can be a great ally. The following are a few ways that you can hook up with others to grow your business further than you may have thought you could.
Classic Symbiotic Partnership
This is the simplest form of partnership, and it is usually one of the most profitable, depending on how it’s organized. How this usually works is that you pair up with a company that produces something you need, or vice versa, and the other company that is part of the arrangement also gets something out of it. Both parties profit from the arrangement.
One example of this is when one company uses the waste product of another company to create its product. One gets the materials, or whatever necessary ingredient that it may be, that they need to make their product or service, and the other gets rid of the waste while making money off of the deal.
Let’s say there is a sawmill who processes raw forest wood to create a product they can sell, which would be finished lumber which they can give to lumber supply companies. In the process of making that finished lumber product, they end up producing a lot of sawdust as a byproduct.
This offers a great opportunity for a company that produces paper products because they can take that sawdust off the sawmill’s hands and use it as raw material to create their own paper products. A partnership like that can easily save the paper company a lot of money in raw materials, and at the same time, the sawmill is able to get rid of their waste product while gaining extra revenue from it, instead of throwing it away.
Sometimes, geography can be mutually advantageous for two or more businesses, too, such as a commuter train company for a city that doesn’t want to spend a ton of money on building brand new rail stations. In this case, the commuter train may be able to use existing stations that have already been built by a city transit company and simply work with them to adapt the stations so that they can serve both train companies.
The commuter rail company can then pay the city transit authority a fee for the use of their stations. There is also another form of partnership that we see more often today, as commerce grows increasingly and retail businesses are looking for ways to promote themselves in a crowded marketplace. A perfect example of this is the case of Target stores housing Starbucks within their stores, wherein both companies draw traffic for each other.
Starbucks customers come into the Target to get coffee and stick around to shop inside the store, and Target customers stop off to grab a coffee while they shop, which is why they went there in the first place. There are numerous partnerships like this in all kinds of retail stores because it is so effective.
Use the Strength of an Established Business
There is another excellent strategy that you can utilize to grow your business, if you can form an agreement with a more established business. This is one of the easiest and quickest ways that you can bring in additional revenue for your business, and most successful companies will be more than happy to come in with you, as there is such a clear benefit for them.
How this works is, the larger business agrees to promote your business to their customers, recommending you to their existing customer base or offering them an exclusive deal if they buy your service or product. In return, you agree to promote their product to your customers at the same time, so that it benefits both of your companies.
If you are an OSP that sells discount electronics, for example, then you might want to contact a company that has a product within the same general industry but is more established than you are. The other company could be a high-end seller of home theater products, and if they just mention your name to their own customers, maybe when they reach checkout or in their own promotional emails, then you stand to gain a lot more new customers from the deal.
Obviously, this kind of partnership requires that there will be customers who are potentially willing to buy both products and exist within the same general market. It doesn’t even have to be an arrangement where all you do is promote each other’s products or services; you might offer the stronger business something else, but it works as long as they’re getting something out of the deal, too.
Form a Partnership with an Individual
A partnership that you enter into with another individual can take many forms. Basically, whomever you’re partnering with would be anyone who can, obviously, offer you some service, knowledge, or other asset of value to you, and to whom you can offer something to them in kind.
The first common way this happens is a standard business partnership, in which you run the company together and either split the profits down the middle or come to another monetary agreement that is appropriate.
You might find someone with whom you want to go into business because they have the capital that you need to bring your business to the next level, or that individual may have special knowledge or understanding of your industry that you wouldn’t have access to without them.
Generally, someone with whom you want to partner up will have some kind of asset, whatever that may be, that will help you grow your business. Another form of this would be partnering with a mentor or someone who has a great deal of experience in your field or industry.
Especially if you’re a new entrepreneur and fairly green, finding a mentor, even if it’s just a good friend or family member with experience from which you can benefit to better understand how you can be successful and bring your business into the future, is actually necessary.
Again, even mentors should get something from the partnership, so you may give them some stake in the company, a percentage of profits, or possibly even provide help to them in their own business. A mentor in business has a lot of value because when you’re just starting out, there is a lot to learn and many pitfalls and issues that can be difficult to navigate without previous experience.
Partner with Nonprofit Organizations
Partnering with nonprofits can be an excellent way to gain exposure for your business, and though it honestly doesn’t matter what type of nonprofit it is, you can maximize that exposure by ensuring that it’s an organization related to your field of business. This is mostly about accessing additional markets, other sectors of your existing market that you couldn’t access on your own, and especially enriching the profile of your business through being socially and culturally responsible with the way you do business.
Many companies go through their entire life cycle without ever really contributing to their surrounding community or committing anything to charitable organizations, and that is a big oversight because there’s a great deal to be gained, not only ethically, but financially for your business.
You can expand into other markets by appealing to people who may not have been otherwise interested in your product by partnering with a nonprofit organization. For example, if you’re a company that sells paper products, you could potentially reach a lot more customers if you partnered up with an organization that promotes businesses who are environmentally responsible, more so than other companies who just disregard it, by selling only green, recycled, or renewably-sourced products.
There are a lot of people out there who could potentially become your customers if they know that you have these kinds of responsible practices in a real way, but those same people would pass right over you if you don’t use those practices, and decide to go with your competitor instead, who does actually look out for the environment.
This is generally a good way to build goodwill with your existing customers, too. As you partner with nonprofits, donate to charities, etc., your loyal customers will feel even better about buying from you. And not only that, but it’s something that may inspire them to tell their friends and family about your company, spreading positive word-of-mouth about you because they’re proud to be your customer.
It’s also worth noting that, if you do partner with nonprofits, you need to make sure you tell your customers about it. You can include correspondence about your efforts with every purchase, that explains what you are doing, or maybe you can send out marketing emails telling them about it.
Of course, you want to focus on having a good product, first, so that your customers are happy with their purchase from you based on quality, but it adds even more value to your product when the charitable or ethical aspect is added to it.
Don’t shy away from partnerships with other organizations, businesses, or individuals just because you don’t think you need them. The truth is that we need other people in every aspect of our lives, and business is no exception. In fact, it’s even more important in business because there are so many variables and so many things that you can miss out on, without the help of others.
As you can see from this post, there are quite a few different forms of partnership. Probably the most common type is the one in which two businesses help each other by each bringing something to the table that the other wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. That’s a good place to start if you’re looking to grow your business in new ways through partnership or arrangements of mutual benefit.
To get started, simply start looking at your competitors, as strange as it may seem, to find out if there may be a way you can help each other instead of competing for the same customers. That is a more unlikely option, but you can learn a lot from the process of learning about your competitors.
The next thing you might want to try is to look at the other businesses working within your industry but who are not your direct competitors, as there is a high likelihood that you can find some arrangement that allows each member of the partnership to gain new customers from the other. In whatever way you approach it, remain open to new opportunities.
If there is an opportunity for you to connect with another organization or individual who has a lot to offer you, and you pass it up due to pride or some other reason, then it’s essentially like leaving money on the table. You can draw a lot of strength and value from partnership that can help you to continually grow your business.
Check out all of the articles in the series, Growing Your Home-Based Business:
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.