It's A Match

Unconventional partnerships could benefit your business.

Partnering has been a business buzzword--and an effective practice--for sometime. But to make partnering pay even higher dividends, find ways to do it yourcompetitors won't think of.

"Seek out [businesses that] want to accomplish the same things you do but thatmight have different perspectives or organizational backgrounds," says ScottAnderson, president of Anderson Services and Consulting Inc., a Raleigh, NorthCarolina, marketing and business development consulting firm.

For example, one of Anderson's clients had an idea for a new product. Thetraditional business approach would be to find a design firm to build aprototype, then either set up a facility to make the item or contract out themanufacturing. But the client had more ideas than time and resources, soAnderson suggested the unconventional approach of licensing the product to auniversity, where students could handle the design, manufacture and marketing,and the entrepreneur would receive a royalty from sales.

Once you've identified potential partners, Anderson says, consider how they'llbenefit if you're successful, what their skills and resources are, and to whatextent they'll be willing to contribute to your efforts. Rank them according topotential, and contact them with plans that will benefit you both. Andremember, it's not necessarily the type of partner that makes the relationshipunconventional, says Anderson; it's how you structure the relationship.

"You're using a resource at no cost to you that your competitors aren't using,"Anderson points out. "You'll have more resources dedicated to achieving yourgoals. If you become an advocate of your product, you can give your potentialpartners a fire-in-the-belly kind of willingness to work with you that theywouldn't otherwise have on their own."

You may find partners who want to work with you simply for the benefit it willbring to their operation; others will want a commission, referral fee or someother compensation. If that's what it takes and you can afford it, Andersonsays you should be willing to pay. "This is business," he says. "It's notgoodwill--everybody's doing it for some sort of advantage."

Finally, if you implement a partnership, monitor its progress to be sure you'regetting what you need out of the relationship. If you're not, Anderson says,either make the necessary changes or find another partner.