When two or more businesses agree to work together on a shared goal, a business partnership is formed. These partnerships can be formal or informal. Either way, they are a valuable tool for businesses both big and small. By utilizing strategic partnerships, you can enter new markets, challenge larger competition, and/or leverage new resources for growth.

Forging business partnerships might seem daunting to new business owners. However, the first step is always the hardest. Recognizing the opportunities available through partnerships can help you push past the unknown. Here’s who and what to look for in a business for a partnership.

Look to your existing network

Your colleagues, mentors, acquaintances, vendors, and suppliers know and work with you on a regular basis. It may be easier to convince them about a mutually beneficial partnership, especially if the relationship is strong. You’ll also have a better idea of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities than a business you have not had contact with yet.

Although partnerships vary in length, aim to build a strong, respectful partnership. This paves the way to work on shared goals and opportunities together in the future.

Aim for credibility

Sometimes businesses or individuals will approach you for a business partnership. However, things seem off. Trust your instincts, but be sure to do your research first. See what information is available on their website, social media channels, and review sites. Research the business and owner on LinkedIn. Determine if what you come across is credible before committing to anything.

The same advice applies when you search for business owners to partner with. Before you reach out, do your research. The last thing you want is to entangle your business with one that consumers do not trust.

Find complementary strengths

Every business has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, one company might have a large client base but has trouble engaging with them. Another might have a smaller audience but succeeds in engaging their community. These two businesses have complementary strengths that, when paired together, benefits both.

Identify places where your business struggles, and search for businesses that succeed in that area. This could be areas of engagement, marketing, innovation, reach, etc.  

Match with similar goals and values

It is far easier to set goals and achieve them if everyone is on the same page from the get go. Business partnerships will not last if the businesses differ significantly on their methods or goals.

Before agreeing to a partnership, get to know the business. Treat it like a first date. Try get a feel for their culture, values, and long term strategies to see if they align with yours.

Mind the Long Term

It is more cost effective to keep an existing customer than to lose them and attract more customers. Similarly, it is more efficient to maintain a long term business partnership than to initiate several short term partnerships.

Seek businesses with a mind for long term growth strategies. You can leverage the existing relationship to achieve multiple shared goals and projects. A healthy, profitable business partnership is an investment that will pay off year after year.