Peer to peer: Diverse skills build good partnerships

Peter Twist – CEO and founder, Twist Performance & Wellness

Whether identifying prospects or considering unsolicited proposals, it takes time to build the right business partnerships. The best alliances can bring strategic advantages, operational efficiencies, increased brand awareness and revenues. As a company with global reach, it is even more important to ensure our partners align with our vision and values.

One of our key partnerships is with the Chinese Olympic Committee, where we lead training and rehabilitation of national athletes. The relationship began by communicating a spirit of respectful collaboration, sharing our values and know-how.

Companies must engage in constant communication to deliver results and to understand the world of their partners. Like employers who do best by “hiring slowly,” companies must be patient in partnerships. For us, new alliances in China for school physical literacy, trainer certifications and performance gyms receive due process, and young partnerships advance.

Businesses should focus on ensuring partners are successful – not just financially but with constant education, providing the most recent philosophies and knowledge to their clients. Market strategies, systems, deliverables and metrics should focus on your partners and their customers, not you, to assess how well you are sharing what works best. This strategy ensures your partners can follow through to use it to their benefit, and allows for early intervention to key in on areas not yet realized.

Ultimately, a sign of success is the quality and commitment of the players on our team.

Ross Hales – Principal/managing director, Carter Hales Design Lab

They say two heads are better than one, so it’s no surprise that the partnership model is attractive to many would-be entrepreneurs. Business partnership is not without its challenges, but you can lay the groundwork for success through a series of conscious decisions:

•Choose a partner, not a friend. It’s a mistake to assume a successful friendship will translate into a successful business partnership. Choose someone you have already worked with. Unless you’ve been together in the pressure cooker of business, it’s impossible to know if your goals, values and appetite for risk are aligned.

•Find strength in your differences. Be clear about your strengths, skills and perspectives. Then choose a partner who brings something different to the table. Why would you want one skill set, when you can have two?

•Clearly delineate areas of responsibility. The launch of a partnership is exciting, and it’s tempting for both partners to be involved knee-deep in all aspects of the business. It can drain your time, energy and focus. In our business, my business partner, Sean Carter, is the final voice on all creative decisions; I have the last say on financial matters. This clear accountability has spared us a lot of frustration.

•Agree that the dialogue never ends. Create a plan and have the discipline to stick to it, but agree to be flexible. Your partnership will flourish when you are guided by a clearly articulated vision and philosophy, but you both stay open and responsive to opportunities and the evolving needs of your customers.

Brent Halverson – President and CEO, ecmarket, creators of Conexiom

In today’s competitive landscape, standing out in the crowd can be tricky. Knowing your target market is one thing, but getting it to know you is another story. In my experience, being introduced to prospective customers through the use of referral partnerships has delivered great results.

Make sure you nurture your relationship with these partners by providing a win-win situation. Here are my tips to making sure a referral partnership is developed to its greatest potential:

•Find the right fit. When selecting a referral partner, make sure it has an existing client base in your target market. Will its clients benefit from your company’s product or service? There is no point to nurturing a referral partnership if its customers have no need for what you’re selling.

•Take the lead. Expecting partners to learn how to sell and service your product can be a huge headache for everyone involved. Give your partners the tools so they have a basic understanding but have your sales team take the lead on nurturing qualified leads and moving them toward a close.

•What’s in it for them? Few people will work without reward. Get their attention by offering a higher percentage in the first year of the contract.

•Measure success: Someone once told me that if you’re not keeping score, how do you know if you’re winning? Your partner needs to be aware of what you expect from the partnership. Measuring your results is key to determining in the end if the partnership is worth continuing.

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