Over the past few months I’ve had the privilege to work in partnership with two fabulous women to launch a new product in the supplier diversity space. In the course of a few months we developed and launched a brand new product that is the brainchild of three business owners. While I’d love to fill you in on the details about Diversity Masterminds (stay tuned for more info coming soon!), the partnership process behind the work reminded me of the struggles business owners have with partnerships and prompted me to share a little something about how this one works.

We have mused before on what allowed us to  get “business married” so quickly. I think partnerships are something that entrepreneurs can struggle with because we go from being the leader and Chief Decision Making Officer to part of an equal partnership.  There has to be a concrete benefit to giving up your time, treasure, and intellectual property. For me that benefit is scale. Building up a partnership is a way I can grow my business without bringing on mouths to feed. I’m totally committed to my partners and our project succeeding but I have a little freedom in how we get there and how long it takes – or in this case – how fast it takes.  In the past, I have struggled with partnerships where our work styles are different or we just can seem to get a finished project out the door so it’s important to know what you want to get out of the partnership and also have a low cost entry point while you figure it out.

Of course, as you get into more formal levels of partnership, that’s when money is involved – that’s where things get interesting/complicated.   In the case of my partners, we moved quickly on an idea for several reasons:

  1. TRUST. We had known each other for a long time. While we haven’t worked together we knew each other’s experience and reputations and felt comfortable moving along without letting bumps in the road become insurmountable obstacles.
  2. ACTION. We have similar work styles. I can sum up all three of our styles as “action-oriented.” We have different strengths and certainly view problems through different lenses but we were all goal oriented and driven to make this happen.
  3. COMMITMENT. We have all been supporting diverse businesses in various ways and knew that we were doing something that aligned with our individual values and missions.

Based on this partnership, I created a matrix around ways that entrepreneurs and small business owners can start to think about partnerships and different ways they can business date before going all in. For example, a low risk way to evaluate a potential partner is to create something together like a free webinar which can bring two complementary services together and reach a broader audience. You share the work with the marketing and materials and a new audience gets to know about you and what you do. It’s also a great way to vet a potential partner. A higher risk/higher reward strategy to scale is a merger or acquisition – and there are different levels in between. New ventures bring new ideas and new challenges so I’ll be writing more about this as we go.

For now it feels like after getting business married, we are having our business baby in just a few months. Send good wishes for good health and longevity!