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How to Build Strategic Partnerships By Boomy Tokan

The law of partnership says: “You cannot survive in business by yourself. There is no such thing as ‘Self-Made’. Everyone needed someone at a strategic moment. No matter how good you are, you don’t know everything, and no matter what you know, someone else knows something that can take your business to the next level!”
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt alone or perhaps immersed in the feeling that no one understands, and you also wished you had someone to share the burden with? Did you ever consider the need for being dependent and independent at the same time? The good news is you are not alone! Any freelancer who wants to achieve success must be willing to partner with someone else.

Defining partnership
When I talk about partnership I am referring to working with someone or a group of people that will solve the problems described in the first paragraph. I am referring to a relationship with the potential to take your business up a notch. In other words; a relationship goes beyond simply delivering a service but a commitment to making the association with your business a win-win experience.

All through your business cycle, you want those working with you to deliver their services to your business not just as a contract worker but as a business partner. You will get more commitment and a better service that will positively affect your business.

As I consider this law I have the distinct impression to let you know that you might use a combination of any of the types listed below depending on where you are in your business cycle. Also be sure that you do not lock yourself into a partnership that can become a chain around your neck as opposed to a productive relationship. So before we enter into the mechanic of how to find and build worthy partnerships, let’s look at the landscape and identify the kind of partnerships a freelancer should be considering:

■Real Partnership. When I say a real partnership and I am referring to a business structure in which two or more people come together to invest, share risks and partake of the profits generated from the business. In the UK there is a business structure called Partnership and the USA also has a similar structure. This form can be utilised from the onset if the business idea came as a result of an existing relationship that both of you felt you could work with. A popular partnership is that of Steve Jobs and Steve Woznick who started Apple. This form of partnership is not suitable for all but has advantages of having someone share the burden with you from the beginning. You get a committed person and additional skills introduced into the business straight off the starting block.
■Contract partnership. If you are not employing someone under terms of employment as an employee then you are probably working with them as a contract partner. Example: if your business is to deliver training to Bakers, your web design (assuming you do not know how to design a website) could be contracted to someone, that person should not just work with you as a designer but you want them to work with you as a partner. You want them to see your business as what makes their business.
■Employee partnership. It is a huge mistake when a business does not instil in their employee the notion that they are partners in the success of business! I must say that many employers are waking up to this idea by providing their employees with stock options, allowing inputs and working with them to practically drive change. When/if you start employing others make sure you treat them as partners in your business and not just zombie employees. Hence those you employ must be wisely chosen. An employee that sees him/herself as a partner is likely to deliver more value to the business than the one who doesn’t.
■Joint venture partnership. Joint ventures are definitely one way to progress your business because sooner or later you will need to consider a joint venture (JV) project with another business. For example you might be supplying two different products to the same audience and therefore it makes sense for you to introduce each other to your list. Or you might even decide to create a product together so that you can reach a wider audience. This form of partnership is so easy to set up because of technology and platforms such as Worrier Forum who make this super easy if as a joint venture you are releasing products on their site.
■Affiliate partnership. Affiliates are groups of people who work online selling products to a list they have built over time and they are always on the lookout for products their audience might want to buy. Forming good relationships with these types of people could skyrocket your business because they could inform you of new products to make, improvements needed on existing products or even offer to enter into a JV with you.
Why strategic partnerships are important and how to find the right partnership
■Understand your abilities & limits. The kind of partnership that works well is when you are in a relationship with a person who has a skill set that complements yours. What you don’t want to do (Which most freelancers do) is to work closely with someone who has an identical skill set as you. When in actual fact working closely with people who have an opposite yet complementary skill set is what will aid your business’s success. Therefore the 1st goal is to critically assess yourself to determine your major gifts or the abilities you bring to the table. Remember the chapter on ‘High Performance’ it stated that your business must be built around your core skills. So what are your core skills? I.e. you may have excellent product creative skills but you are lousy at marketing. Meaning that the best products may not sell as expected but the average well known products outsell the better ones because the shortfall is in marketing.
■Understand the needs of your business: once that is known then the next step is to figure out the other skills that are necessary for the business to excel. Remember that there are four key areas that make a business succeed:
■Product creation and development
■Product marketing and sales
■Product administration
■Product financing
■Understand your network: the key is to use your existing or current network to find people you could work with. Those include:
■Family members
■Members of organisations you attend
■Former colleagues
■Industry sites and events
■Forums and blogs
Make sure all these people know what you want and ask for recommendations. For example, I mostly use designers others have recommended, I dislike the process of having to try out a designer. It cost time and money. If you tap into your networks you will find the right partners to work with.

How to build a partnership relationship
There is no doubt that relationships must be built from the ground up; especially business relationships. Get it wrong and it will cost you dearly; get it right and you will laugh all the way to the bank. Apart from the need to communicate with those you are in partnership with in regards to your company direction and aspirations; 3 elements are essential and I call them the 3 T’s:

1.Testing: always start by testing the person/company you want to work with and see whether they deliver what they promised before you commit more into their hands. You really want to determine their capacity, integrity and capabilities.
2.Trust: How far can you trust them? Always test people with money. If they can be trusted with a little then they can be trusted with a lot. But if they cannot be trusted with a little then they cannot be trusted with a lot! The closer they are going to work with you, the more important trust becomes.
3.Time: every relationship needs time to mature and blossom and a partnership is no different. The only way to circumvent time is to only use recommend sources. Even then the person/business still needs to understand how you function. Give time for development, give time for changes to be made and give time for people to grow into the role/function given.

In conclusion the law of partnership is a critical one that requires care and the determination of long term efforts. But since no one can survive by themselves it is a price worth paying. The only snag is that you may experience some disappointments in the beginning or along the way, but be hopeful because great partners always come along if you do not give up!

Getting started
1.Where are you in your business cycle – beginning, middle or growth?
2.What or who is lacking in your business?
3.Which of the partner types are you going to try out this month?

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