The idea of strength in numbers is something that certainly holds up in the business world. While you may do something very well and be successful on your own, there’s much to be gained from forging mutually beneficial business relationships.
It’s never a smart idea to put yourself in a silo and exclusively depend on your own resources. There’s value in partnering with others and building relationships that give you access to new opportunities. But saying strategic partnerships are valuable and actually forming them are two different things. Here are a few suggestions for doing the latter.
Be clear with expectations
“Often people enter into partnerships because they don’t feel they have enough value on their own,” entrepreneur Kate McKay says. “Coming from this place almost never creates a mutually beneficial relationship. The chance of getting burned is almost guaranteed.”
Personal friendships can often form without any sort of expectations, but this isn’t true in the business world. There are always expectations; you and the other party need to be fully aware of what they are from the very beginning. Be clear on the value you bring to the table, as well as the value the other individual offers.
Identify common ground
In every single relationship – whether it’s a friendship, romantic relationship, business partnership, or anything in between – some sort of common ground exists between the two parties. This is what allows them to connect and accomplish their goals.
The greatest type of common ground is a shared belief. This is something renowned guitar instructor Tom Hess has discovered firsthand when teaching students. He finds that his most successful students, without exception, share the belief that they will become great players one day as a result of studying underneath him. As a result, Hess and the student are able to move forward with very little friction.
So, how can you identify common ground with individuals you’re building relationships with? It could be a shared business belief, personal interest, or any number of things.
Get everything in writing
Any time you enter into some type of formal relationship – such as a partnership – everything needs to be put in writing. If you’re particularly close with the individual in a personal way, this can seem unnatural or over-the-top – but it’s necessary. People get burned in a heartbeat in business partnerships every day and you, unfortunately, have to assume that you’ll be that person.
A formal contract explaining the terms of your relationship and where different assets and interests go (including intellectual property) if the partnership dissolves is a good place to start.
Make personal connections
There’s nothing wrong with getting to know a professional connection in a more personal way. When certain boundaries are established, this can actually strengthen the business side of things.
“If you really want to get to know people, ask them to go for coffee so that you can talk more personally, one on one,” small business expert Deborah Shane suggests. “Be willing to share experiences, ideas, points of view and simply learn more about each other’s story, family and professional history.”
Much of the business world has gone in the direction of automation. They assume that the more you step back and automate processes, the better of you’ll be. And while there is merit in this theory, there’s one thing that can’t ever be automated: relationships. If you want to succeed, you need to forge mutually beneficial business relationships that can push you forward. Start putting an emphasis on the relational aspect of business and you’ll reap the rewards of stronger connections.