Successful companies and emerging startups often find themselves in need of more resources and partners. Knowing how to find them can be hard, but it’s not impossible. Organization, persistence and patience will pay off as you search for new investors and business partners. Finding a business partner can help you overcome your shortfalls, and your partnership may help you turn a weakness into a strength. The president of PayPal Canada, Paul Parisi, says, “Strategic partnerships enable teams to bring the best of their talent and strengths forward … Every business has unique strengths.” The best business partners not only complement each other’s strengths, but they also make up for each other’s weaknesses as well. Here are some of the ways you can look for and engage potential partners.
Identify other organizations and reach out
Creating a spreadsheet or a Word document can be helpful for this step. You and other team members can brainstorm a list of potential partner organizations. Typically, you’d want to include the organization’s name, a contact within that organization, an email address and a phone number, at the very least. The point of contact between both organizations should be the team member most knowledgeable about the potential partner. Tamara Schwarting recommends having a team member dedicated to exploring his or her networks for potential partners. Previous employers and managers might know other organizations that you can contact. Additionally, the YLAI Network provides a great connection point with potential contacts. College professors and university alumni may know or may even be involved in organizations that your group might be interested in. You and your staff members can talk to family members to see if there are any potential partners within your familial networks. Partners and investors are often one email, one phone call and one conversation away. Take the initiative and reach out.
Knowing yourself and potential partners
It’s important to know what your short-term and long-term goals are as an organization. Knowing your own goals can help you narrow or expand your list of potential partners down the road. You might want to know the nature and success of your potential partners’ past relationships. Do some preliminary research on important staff and the history of an organization; it can be crucial to finding the right partner. If your organization is a non-profit that educates people about the dangers of climate change, for example, it may not make much sense to partner with fossil fuel companies or their affiliates. Instead, it would make more sense to partner with other green organizations that have similar interests. This can ensure that the partnerships and relationships you cultivate with other businesses or organizations are productive, amicable and helpful in the long-term.
A bad partnership can negatively impact your organization by generating bad PR and might prevent you from establishing new partnerships. You also want to consider what to do if you or your potential partners radically change in the future. The group that looks like the best firm to partner with now might change their goals.
Defining the relationship
When you finally select your partner organization, you want to consider next the scope and extent of your relationship. What issues would you want to collaborate on? What issues do you want to manage separately? All these questions should be answered as you establish your partnerships. Not defining your roles and responsibilities can lead to potential confusion and miscommunication down the road.
Finding and selecting the correct partner organization is an important task for any aspiring organization. Every entrepreneur should do careful research into whom they want to partner with and for what reasons. Not doing careful research can backfire and prevent you from effectively expanding your business potential.
Richard Robles is a student of government and environmental science and policy at the College of William and Mary. He works as a Research Assistant for the Transparency Development Footprints (TDF) team, which tracks underreported financial flows, at AidData, a research lab at William and Mary’s Global Research Institute. In his free time he enjoys greeting and petting every four-legged companion he sees — on campus or at home — including his own dog, Lulu Belle.