Most small business owners recognize that creating partnerships or joint venture relationships with other businesses can expand capacity and open up new opportunities. This recognition is further echoed by government and corporate supplier diversity leaders that encourage businesses to consider these collaborative strategies to reach the scale necessary to pursue larger contracts. Based on this information, many small minority- and women-owned business owners may ask themselves, ‘Who can I partner with to expand the reach and opportunities for my company?’ Although this is a great question on the surface, oftentimes companies seem to approach partnering relationships like millennials at a nightclub on the dating scene.
In business, looking for “the one” is similar to the way it works in the dating world. First, there is a desire for a partner to pursue what the owner believes will be a mutually beneficial relationship. Second, there is an initial contact with a proposed companion to make acquaintance or to reconnect after a period of separation. Third, there is a proposition where the business owner lays out the opportunity to go after a beneficial outcome. Finally, the proposed partner either accepts or kindly rejects the proposition.
Sound familiar? This happens quite frequently in the business world. However, just like in the dating world, entrepreneurs can become turned-off or closed-off to such advances, even if the benefits could be beneficial to both parties. Why does this happen? It happens because there are several missing components that usually make this type of relationship-building process extremely unappealing.
The first missing component is mutual attraction. For most people (and most business owners), attraction comes from spending quality time and getting to know a prospective partner long before pursuing a serious connection. In business, this may include sharing a meal, networking at a conference, visiting each other’s business location, or even doing volunteer work together. Attraction usually requires that the two potential partners get to know each other, and become comfortable with one another, to the point where both parties desire a stronger connection.
Another missing component is time. ‘Speed dating’ business offers tend to come up on the spur of the moment when time is of the essence. In business, this usually means an invitation for bid or Request for Proposal (RFP) has already been publicized and is on the street—requiring an immediate response. In dating terms this is equivalent to a person attempting to make a connection at a party after the DJ announces the last dance song of the night. In both scenarios, the chances are very slim that an ideal connection will emerge.
A final missing component is trust. Although the components of attraction and time may exist in a potential relationship, trust is the biggest factor that will determine the success of a partnering relationship. Trust represents the belief and assurance that both a person and/or their business will be safe (and hopefully better off) by making a connection. When considering a business proposition, the owner will typically ask questions such as, ‘Will this relationship hurt me financially, professionally, or emotionally?’ Or they might also ask, ‘Will this effort be a waste of my time or hurt my reputation?’ These and other questions will determine the amount of trust another party has in the potential relationship; and ultimately determine if the relationship is worth pursuing.
Developing meaningful and lasting relationships is a major key to success for small businesses. A well-planned and carefully considered partnership can help a business owner enter new markets, expand capacity, and win new customers in an economy demanding greater scale from vendors and suppliers. However, business owners can’t afford to take a short-term approach to a long-term need. They must, instead, invest energy into making themselves attractive to other quality partners with the same objectives. They must also be willing to invest the time necessary to properly get to know a potential partner before entering into a long-term relationship. Finally, they must be willing and open to develop the mutual trust of the right business partner that can help both parties achieve their business dreams. For more information on the right way to grow your business, visit www.TheInstituteNC.org.