Small businesses can move a couple of steps up the growth ladder by working with companies bigger than they are. It’s not hard to see why this would work: larger corporations have a wider reach, market penetration and popularity; smaller businesses could leverage these to get into new spaces, gain greater prominence, and ultimately draw in more customers and rack up sales.
Partnerships of this kind may take the form of outsourcing or B2B vending relationships, service bartering, CSR initiatives, and business events. A large corporation may connect with a smaller one which supplies it with machines, IT maintenance services or troves of possible leads. Or they could work together on a major project which requires the expertise of both businesses.
But will this sort of partnership work for you? While it’s true that linking up with the big players in business could open doors to new markets for your business, you need to be certain that the company you’re partnering with is right for you- and equally important, that your business is right for them. You don’t want to get your hopes up on a big partnership with some industrial giant, only to have it wind up being a costly flop.
Before making the decision to match up with a bigger business, you should have answers to the following questions:
- Is your potential partner strong in the areas that you want to leverage for your business’s growth?
- Can your business give your partner company what they’ll need from it?
- Are your values and those of your potential partner compatible?
- Do the returns you’ll get exceed the costs you’ll incur by a big enough margin to make the partnership worthwhile?
- How long do you want the partnership to last?
The answers you provide will determine how reasonable it’ll be for you to go ahead with pursuing any specific partnerships.
How to build this partnership
Let’s say you’re convinced that your business is in the right shape to work with a bigger brand. How do you make it happen?
Here are a few steps to take.
Hunt down opportunities
One way to find potential partners is business events at which there’s a chance to network. There’s a litany of conferences to choose from these days. You may go for the generic event embracing a wide range of businesses, or one that’s industry specific. One business event you should consider attending is ConnectNigeria’s eBusiness Fair, an annual trade event attended by SMEs and representatives of some of Nigeria’s biggest brands. You could make some valuable connections there.
Partnerships can also happen when businesses actively seeks out each other. You may set out to get a larger firm on board your network of partners by sending them proposals when you have a project that could benefit both your business and theirs. If they think it’s worth pursuing, they’ll let you know.
Sometimes, you’ll want to start off by building relationships with key people in an organization you want to connect with. Be careful to let such networks strengthen; pitching to people right away indicates to them that you’re probably in it for yourself only- and if they think this, they aren’t likely to give you an approving nod.
Know what’s in it for both parties
Study the would be partner and determine how your ambitions fit in with theirs. Know where the other party is in terms of growth and needs, and identify the possible ways you could help them with your abilities.
This step comes after you’ve found a prospective partner you’d like to do business with. Of course, it could be the other business which seeks yours out. Whatever direction the hunting out comes from, you should examine the pros and cons of an alliance before deciding whether to jump into it or not.
Prepare your pitch
Having gotten familiar with your prospective partner’s likely needs (or demands), you could go on to prepare a proposal that shows how your capabilities can plug their need gaps.
Your aim should be to convince the potential partner by emphasizing your business’s strengths. Highlight things like your staff’s technical background and experience, your business’s past achievements, market presence, and plans for the future. Again, be on the lookout for the points in which your expertise come in handy for the company you’re pitching to. Zero in on as many of such matches as you can find.
Have your business plan and financial statements ready too; you might need them. Some of the bigger corporations are rather meticulous about their partnerships. Working with a shady partner could prove costly for their image. In order to avoid getting their brand sullied in a partnership, they may want a thorough perusal of your records (and do some asking around as well). Be prepared for this.
If there’s a signal of interest comes from the business you’ve talked with, you may move to secure an in-person meeting. Be at your best, have the right material with you, and hold your fort with confidence and tact.
Clinch the deal
Don’t take an offer from the other party if it’s below the limit you’ve set beforehand (you should decide on a limit before the negotiations begin). Hold out for a deal that benefits you.
Know that getting an agreement to partner is only the start of the journey. Keeping your word and staying relevant will require your dedication and demand that you treat your engagement with your partner as professionally as you can. In a nutshell, deliver the goods you promised.