The mistake I used to make was that instead of seeking out effective relationships and partnerships to build those skill and access gaps, I would redesign my work to fit what I was directly capable of.
That’s not a bad thing in all circumstances, it’s particularly not a bad thing when it comes to money management. But it can be a bad thing when it comes to growth.
If you’re building based on your skills and access, you’re limiting yourself to your world and your world probably isn’t big enough to capture true growth.
To cover this topic I’m going to focus on three questions:
We chose to start this season of Build Hustle Grow, with this topic because partnerships and relationships are so fundamental to growth, yet so underrated when compared to things like social media, paid ads, influencer marketing and so on. If you can find the right organisations to work with and the right people to champion you, you could achieve similar levels of success without the ad spend that comes with the more popular methods.
What’s the difference between a business partnership and a business relationship?
Partnerships are about working together for a fixed amount of time, or on a specific project for the mutual benefit of the individual organisations involved.
Partnerships are supposed to aim at growth. You should only be entering into a partnership with an organisation if you think they will be able to give you access to a group of potential customers or clients that would be difficult for you to access otherwise.
Relationships are more of a fluid concept as they often don’t have clear terms and objectives set out for them. There is that saying, ‘your network is your net worth’...Well, it’s true! The people you surround yourself with will be the people that open doors for you, so it's best to form relationships with people that have access to the opportunities you want.
Why do we have to foster relationships/partnerships in business?
Relationships give you more eyes and more access than you would have otherwise.
Relationships with founders make the business-building journey less lonely. It's encouraging to know you’re not the only person making seemingly unjustifiable sacrifices to reach a goal that no one can promise is possible. Also, as they are not your direct competitors, you could benefit from having them as a sounding board for you when you’re in a business strategy bind.
Relationships with clients make it possible to do business. Depending on the customer acquisition cycle of your business which is largely determined by the types of business you run.
For example, B2C can be as short as a 10-minute journey, whereas B2B, you’re looking at 3-12 months to win a customer. Having a relationship at the company doesn’t always mean you’ll win the client over, but it does make things easier. Example, our work with a tech giant and our relationship with them significantly sped up the Customer Acquisition process as there was already implicit trust in our expertise and abilities.
Forming close relationships with competitors may seem nonsensical at first, but think about it a little more practically. When you’re building a small business and you don’t have the team to support you, there are often things that you come across that may seriously affect your entire industry. For Black people, because we are a demographic group that is often so underrepresented in an industry, we need to band together with other Black people so that we can gain power and better opportunities by presenting a united front.
That doesn’t happen if you’re off in a silo. I’m not saying share your secret sauce with your competitors, but I am saying it is wise to stay on friendly terms with them just in case they ever come across an opportunity they can’t take on, if you’re friendly, they’ll probably share it with you!
At their core, partnerships are about co-creation and collaboration. If you’re in a partnership that wasn’t co-created and isn’t entirely dependent on collaboration then it isn’t a partnership, it is probably a case of you doing something of value for the other party, for free.
Partnerships are supposed to be edifying, and mutually beneficial. What you determine to be a good enough pay-off to pass your mutually beneficial bar is entirely up to you.
How do you identify the right relationships/partnerships?
Actively seek out new spaces and groups. One of the things I often think is, if I am in a networking situation and I know most of the people in the room, I wasted my time.
Your relationships should always be forward-looking. You should be trying to be in the company of people that have been there and done whatever it is you want to do. Those relationships will be the perfect sounding board as you get into growth and scale.
There is no shame in cutting people out when the way they approach their business or their ideology becomes debilitative to your growth and achievement. There is such a thing as toxic business relationships!
When it comes to partnerships, each one is a stepping stone to where you want to be. Forming resource-based partnerships is a great way to get your foot in the door and also a great way to understand the inner workings of an organisation you may not have access to otherwise.
Map where you want your business to be in a year or two.
For example, what clients do you want to have by then? For us it used to be the big tech companies, so we found an in-route to those companies that didn’t require them to pay us, but did require them to show us the inner working of their organisation. That way when we were ready to pitch for paid work to them or similar potential clients, we already had that experience and knowledge under our belts.
I hope that in sharing some of the things I have learned over the years when it comes to forming beneficial partnerships and relationships have been helpful. Please join me in the next episode when I’ll be revealing some of my hard-learned lessons in the area of team building.
The free download available for this episode is How to Avoid Business Failure.
Build Hustle Grow is a podcast aimed at people that are pre or post-launch and focused on building, hustling and growing their business.